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At our workshop for the Gigabit City Summit, we shared multiple strategic thinking exercises we use to help organizations achieve better business results. Since our audience included some of the most innovative, forward-looking communities in the US, our specific focus was articulating a shared vision for the community to shape development and implementation of a significant broadband initiative.

During our Gigabit City Summit workshop discussion, one mayor in the audience expressed the concern that a “vision” seems squishy and only so many words that don’t really do much in shaping a direction.

That’s likely a common sentiment about vision statements. And while it can be true, it doesn’t have to be.

Gigabit-City-Summit-Convene

A Shared Vision and Better Business Results

Here’s why we’re proponents of articulating a shared vision for an organization and it’s important audiences. A well-developed vision:

  • Points to a future direction
  • Incorporates the aspirations of a broad audience
  • Suggests how the organization will move toward the future direction
  • Excites and invites the community to become a part of the vision
  • Speaks clearly and emotionally to the audience
  • Supports and aligns the other elements of the organization’s strategic direction

One important point is that the vision doesn’t HAVE to be a “statement.” While it certainly can be summed up in one sentence, a shared vision that’s intended to meaningfully lead to better business results could be a much longer work that describes the future. Rather than being written, the vision mind find its best form in pictures, an infographic, a video, or even some type of physical representation. Or the vision could be comprised of all of these.

So, yes, a vision can be fluffy.

But if you approach articulating a vision as a foundation step that’s vital for better business results and do so in a smart, inclusive way, a shared vision can be the most important strategic element an organization has at its disposal. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Suppose you are organizing a big meeting. There will be many people working on your organization’s vision or you’re trying to learn what things your customers are looking for in your product or service. Either way, maximizing group collaboration and engagement is vital.

As you plan your event strategy, how do you decide which type of information sharing strategy will create the most beneficial group collaboration?

One often-used strategy is allowing one individual at a time to share his or her perspective with the group. If the group is large and the time is too short, the result is each person gets a very short time to speak. Or it may be that only a few people are selected to talk, and everyone else listens.

That strategy works if the speakers are more informed on the topic than all the other attendees or the time available from the presenters is very limited. You can’t really claim the “one speaking to many” strategy creates effective group collaboration, however.

A different, typically overlooked strategy can genuinely lead to much stronger group collaboration. This strategy involves creating many small groups from among a larger audience. Provide each small group a dynamic structure and strategic thinking exercises with productive questions allowing everyone to successfully contribute personal knowledge, perspectives, and ideas. While this strategy increases group collaboration and strengthens an organization’s understanding, it won’t work in every situation. Most importantly, if you don’t have a tested design and implementation approach for how to select the right types of strategic thinking exercises, capture input being generated by multiple groups, and distill the work into strategic themes, the strategy will fall flat.

When you do have all these factors in place, this collaborative strategy works tremendously efficiently and effectively. We talked about this strategic group collaboration approach on a webinar today for attendees at the Gigabit City Summit.

You can review a recording of the webinar here: http://ow.ly/GYi1k 

The topic for the webinar and our workshop with the group at the Gigabit City Summit is how to more successfully develop a community-wide vision within cities implementing ultra high-speed Internet. The approach works across business situations though, so go ahead and grab a copy of the infographic here to help you decide which type of information sharing strategy will work best for your next group meeting.

And if you want great strategic group collaboration, let us know. We’d be happy to design and create the experience and organizational benefits you are looking for with your group! – Mike Brown

150106 Collaboration Infographic - The Brainzooming Group

 

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This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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As the year starts, you will generate and see many new strategy documents, especially within large organizations. These strategy documents will include strategic plans, business plans, product strategies, financial forecasts, and current marketing initiatives.

It is easy (and happens far too often) for executives to largely ignore the strategy documents and dive right into doing stuff. That is why you hear so often about strategic plans that sit on the shelf unused.

One reason may be that strategic plans are so poorly written.

It is possible though that strategy plans go unused because executives do not know how to read and apply them to better guide and align activities.

Too many strategy documents go unused.

Read a Strategy Document Four Ways

Here are the four must-know ways to read a strategy document. Read it:

  1. Literally – What does the strategy document SAY about what the organization’s intentions are? What important initiatives are planned to make the strategy a reality? What does the strategy suggest the future direction is?
  2. Thematically – What are the major themes suggested within and across strategy documents? Do you see a focused set of themes or are there many diverse ones? Are actions (both those underway and those already completed) consistent with the themes? Are there contradictory themes? If so, what does that suggest about which strategies will predominate?
  3. Collectively – Are there various pieces of the puzzle across strategy documents that fit together? Do the pieces fit together well? Are there opportunities to bring the pieces together in a way that sheds more insight on the organization’s strategic direction and priorities?
  4. Strategically – How strongly are priorities aligned across the various parts of the organization creating these strategy documents? Are there any strategic disconnects that need to be reconciled to achieve success?

What is the benefit of reading a strategy document four ways?

If you apply this discipline, you will develop a stronger sense of the organization’s overall direction, extending to insights that might not be written down anywhere. Not only will you be able to better prioritize current activities, you will be in a much better position to anticipate what the future holds, too. – Mike Brown

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This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

 

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I received a question asking for more details on the recent post about how a Zoomference enables an organization to streamline strategic planning exercises and deliver a plan more quickly through using our online collaboration platform.

In response, here’s a case study from a Zoomference we facilitated last week. If you need to remove time from your organization’s strategic planning process (either for an imminent planning deadline before year end or for planning you do throughout the year), here’s how a Zoomference from Brainzooming makes it happen.

The Zoomference Case Study – Ideas to a Plan in 6 Hours

Our client is an industry association management team deployed in multiple locations. With forty potential initiatives identified as possibilities for the next year, our objective was to help narrow the initiatives to a manageable number and develop strategic plans for the top priorities.

The pressing deadline was the need to deliver the strategic plan to its board members a mere eight days after we started our work.

Based on a preliminary conversation with the client, we designed a planning schedule and four online collaboration sessions for the week. The first three Zoomference online collaboration sessions included an orientation and two working sessions to gather input on priorities and implementation; these sessions were MondayTuesday, and Wednesday. The final session, last Friday morning, was to review the plan based on the week’s work.

2015-strategic-plan

Zooming through Strategic Planning Exercises

Within the first three online collaborative strategic planning sessions (less than six hours of the client’s time), we:

  • Gathered input to develop a prioritization model for the organization going forward
  • Identified the list of forty potential priorities
  • Used a rough version of the prioritization tool to narrow the forty initiatives to six
  • Ranked the six initiatives and identified the top five
  • Gathered input from the group about their objectives and potential approaches with each of the five initiatives

After completing the third session on Wednesday, The Brainzooming Group team developed the input into five initiative plans, complete with strategy statements, metrics, critical success factors, and implementation steps to make the plan a reality in 2015. We reviewed the twenty-plus page strategic plan with the team on Friday morning, making final edits to prepare this week’s board presentation.

Yes, you read that right.

The start-to-finish client time investment for a prioritized, five-initiative strategic plan ready to share with the board was about seven hours.

In fact, at one point, I let the team know they’d done 4 weeks of work in 45 minutes.

And the client’s reaction? It’s “amazing.”

That’s the power of combining Brainzooming strategic planning exercises with our online collaboration platform to create a Zoomference.

Want to take advantage of the power of a Zoomference?

If you’d like to spend less time planning and more time doing, a Zoomference is what you need.

Email (info@brainzooming.com) or call us at 816-509-5320 to schedule time to learn how The Brainzooming Group can create a Zoomference to help you address your strategic planning questions and complete your plan for next year while there’s still time! – Mike Brown

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Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Yes, there is still time to get your strategic planning done for next year. If you want to be ready in time, however, you may have to speed things up dramatically to complete the plan. Speeding things up does not mean, however, you should ignore the importance of pushing your organization’s strategic thinking in new directions.

Group-Exercises

 

Here are some of the typical questions about accelerating a strategic planning process with links to answers, strategic planning exercises for groups, and lists of strategic thinking questions.

What should we include in our strategic planning?

Focusing and Speeding Up Your Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning Exercises for Groups

Strategic Thinking Questions for Next Year

Most years, we provide a new list of strategic thinking questions for group strategic planning exercises. Even though we introduced them previously, the questions are still highly relevant. Here are several lists to use:

Rolling Out the Plan

Still Uncertain on Your Best Approach?

We specialize in implementing the type of focused planning approach associated with these articles. You can review the overview on our strategic planning approach, or better yet, contact us (email at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320) to help you through your planning whether in person or via a Zoomference! –  Mike Brown

 

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Surprisingly, one of the old war horse business maxims speakers and audience members at the Compete Through Services Symposium started repeating at every turn was, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Introducing a completely foreign strategy to an organization can be a recipe for disaster and the culture swallowing the strategy whole. This will happen because of either cultural sins of commission (the strategy is sabotaged by the culture) or omission (the culture collectively ignores the strategy).

If there’s a situation where culture eats strategy for breakfast, however, it represents a huge mistake in strategic thinking and how the leadership developed, communicated, and/or implemented the strategy.

Smiley-Face

Strategic Thinking on Culture and Strategy

In reality, a healthy culture doesn’t eat a smart strategy for breakfast.

Instead a healthy culture and a smart strategy complement and reinforce one another. (You can pick whichever breakfast item combo you enjoy complementing one another to finish that thought.)

How do create a situation where culture and strategy are working together?

There are multiple strategy development approaches that can ensure culture and strategy are working together productively.

Most of our strategic thinking on accomplishing this positive result is in our Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Manifesto (which turns eight years old this month).

The short list of strategy development approaches we advocate includes:

It’s easy, especially when you’re speaking in front of a crowd of smart, successful, action-oriented folks to take swings at strategy.

Strategy is a pretty cheap target. It sounds dynamic to trot out, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” as a presentation punch line.

It’s a lot smarter to be a smart strategist who knows how to deliver strategy that successfully works with your culture. – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Suppose you are under the gun to get your strategic planning done before the end of the year and time is running out quickly.

The problem is you have delayed strategic planning, the holidays are creeping up, your team is in multiple locations, and there’s no budget or time left to get everyone together. And even IF you did get everyone together, you know the meeting won’t be as innovative and productive as you need to be more successful next year.

What’s an Answer to Your Strategic Planning Questions?

One possibility for answering your nagging strategic planning questions is shutting the door and trying to sketch out next year’s plan all by yourself.

Unfortunately, that’s a crappy answer.

Your team won’t feel involved or have deep buy-in (with good reason) and chances are the plan will be either too incremental (because you’re just trying to slide by) or overly aggressive (because it lacks multiple, realistic perspectives from your team).

What’s an Answer to Your Strategic Planning Questions that Will Work?

So, would you prefer a positive, productive answer to your strategic planning challenge? One that can even make planning interactive, productive, and enjoyable?

If that sounds like what you need to get your planning completed, let us facilitate your strategic planning ONLINE in a Zoomference.

You’re likely asking, “What’s a Zoomference?”

A Zoomference is where we invite your team to address your important opportunities and challenges inside a collaborative, facilitated Brainzooming session that takes place online.

A Zoomference is not just any online hangout where people chat and bounce ideas around.

During a Zoomference, The Brainzooming Group uses its incredibly efficient and engaging strategic planning approach to your bring your team together in one place online. We’ll work with you through the fundamental steps you need for a collaborative plan. In the process, you will see stronger interaction and strategic understanding among your team because of the engaging, stimulating experience. And it will take place in less time than you’d ever imagine possible.

We’ve been using Zoomferences with clients for several years. Amazingly, they can be even more productive and thorough than getting everyone together in one physical location.

How is THAT possible?

Because the online environment lets everyone participate simultaneously, contributing planning ideas. They can also group, rank, and prioritize the group’s strategies so ideas turn into strategic impact with a solid plan.

141116-Zoomference

How do you get started?

Email (info@brainzooming.com) or call us at 816-509-5320 to schedule time to learn how The Brainzooming Group can create a Zoomference to help you address your strategic planning questions and complete your plan for next year while there’s still time.

Trust us; it’s not too late – if you take that first step NOW! – Mike Brown

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

 

Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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