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I learned in a Bible class that one meaning of the word “holy” is “to be set apart.” In the case of religion, obviously, whatever is considered holy is being set apart for God.

Extending this idea to business can help explain executives who act as if they are the only ones involved in developing strategy for their organizations.

Many executives commonly think, believe, and act as if strategic planning activities are “holy” since they are set apart as something in which only leaders can participate.

Everyone else gets told (ideally) or not (far too often) what the company strategy means for employees, customers, and other stakeholder groups. This communication about strategy may be so superficial it is nearly impossible for an employee to understand and connect to the business strategy to effectively it to life with customers.

Who Participates in Strategic Planning Activities?

At its heart, how the broader organization participates in strategic planning activities is a philosophical issue about what “owning” a company’s strategy means. This extends to who in an organization (or even outside an organization) provides input, hypothesizes about, develops,  shapes, articulates, and implements strategy.

From spending most of my career in the Fortune 500 world leading and participating in developing strategy, the approach The Brainzooming Group supports is that strategy SHOULD NOT be considered “holy.” We push for and support more people participating in developing strategy because it paves the way for dramatic marketplace success.

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Our thinking about strategy permeates the content here.

Creating Strategic Impact and Results!!!

Additionally, The Brainzooming Group has published a new mini-book for senior executives called, “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact throughout an Organization.”

In this mini-book, we share ten lessons for how senior executives should approach developing strategy as an open, collaborative process that meaningfully involves participants and insights from inside and outside their organizations.

These lessons from our work with clients across industries lead to discovering new ideas and changing how organizations serve customers more successfully. The lessons include how to efficiently incorporate a wide number of perspectives about delivering value and more seamlessly linking strategy and implementation throughout the organization.

Download your copy of “Results” today and get a big head start beating your competitors to new heights for strategic impact and dramatic results!


Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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If you want to maximize your project management success when implementing a new strategic initiative, should you start at the start or start somewhere else?

Should you start, for instance, at the end?

We’re currently implementing Hubspot as an important component of our content marketing strategy. It’s an exciting opportunity and capability to maximize the effectiveness of the vast array of content we’ve created on strategy and innovation since the inception of The Brainzooming Group.

At the same time, it’s a daunting project management task to work through all the pieces that need to be created and snapped together to make it work as best possible.

Among the intriguing project management techniques Hubspot imposes is to start at the end.

For any new campaign, the implementation process leads you to the end (i.e., creating landing and fulfillment pages and emails) before you do anything else. These two elements are at the end of the first phase of a campaign. Working backward in this way ensures you don’t start a new strategic initiative and then fall down because the final pieces were not in place.

Adding “Start at the End” to Our Project Management Techniques

While it can seem awkward to start from the end, it’s a valuable project management technique we’ve written about relative to planning new strategic initiatives and following up major events.

how-does-this-end

Based on our Hubspot experience, we’ll be looking for more ways to incorporate a comparable “start at the end” project management discipline into our planning process. This should help ensure implementation actually takes place as we help a client plan for and advance a new strategic initiative.

What about your organization? Do you routinely start from the end?

If you don’t start at the end and have struggled with implementation success, run ahead on your next big initiative to make sure the last steps are in place before your first ones and see what a difference it makes for creating strategic impact. –  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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We published an article on how to engage a team in strategic thinking and creative thinking exercises without having an offsite meeting.

It prompted a question from our buddy, “Jim in Massachusetts.” Jim asked about handling people not interested in participating. Specifically, Jim asked, “What do you do about the ‘overly serious’ people who don’t get the exercises, never read, ‘Whack on the Side of the Head’ or its sister book, and try to turn these meetings into useless frustration exercises by bitching about the work they are not getting done??”

I address this question all the time in creating strategic impact workshops, but was surprised nothing on Brainzooming covered this.

The point of the “strategic thinking without having an offsite meeting” list was you can engage a team in creative thinking exercises without telegraphing what they are doing.

Small-Group

When Multiple People Aren’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

Suppose multiple people on a team don’t want to engage in creative thinking exercises or anything resembling creative thinking.

  • Typically we try to head this off before things begin by working with the client to plan who will be participating.
  • If several people MUST be there who are reluctant but not obnoxious about not wanting to participate, we spread them out with people who are engaged. We then see if we can win them over to participating.
  • If a few people are ruining things for others and for what we’re trying to accomplish, we might put them all together in a group and let them beat up on one another for the rest of the time. While other participants get to switch groups, they’ll all stay together. If ANYTHING productive comes from them, it’s a pleasant surprise.

 

When One Person Isn’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

With just one person in a group not into creative thinking, our approach is different.

  • If a boss or authority figure is taking energy from creative thinking activities, we pair them with someone that can over-enthuse the group to offset the authority figure. They generally stay together and won’t move to other groups. This minimizes the damage the authority figure might inflict on the group.
  • If we have a good relationship with the authority figure, we might ask them to step aside and only observe. In one case, given a team’s concerns (even through their boss was NOT dampening anything), the client left the room so the team could work on people issues inside the organization unencumbered.
  • If someone other than the boss is overtly antagonistic to strategic thinking exercises and activities, we simply suggest they use the remaining time on their own. This first happened when a curmudgeony director at our company walked in late to a strategy planning activity. He took one look at the toys and noisy people having fun working on new ideas, and told me, “I have real work to do.” I told him we’d all be better off if he concentrated on his real work. That was the end of that.

 

That’s Our Experience

Again, the best way to deal with these situations is heading them off before the group convenes. If not, you may have to improvise. If this situation happens in the future, however, who knows what other solutions the specific setting may inspire! – Mike Brown

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Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic impact, and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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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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The April 2015 Fast Company features its list of the biggest business comeback stories during the twenty years the magazine has been publishing.

Each business comeback story is presented individually (expect for Apple, which they say is number one, but never bother to list or write a full profile about the company). I was curious about what successful business strategy moves Fast Company highlighted across the twenty corporations.

To paraphrase the old saying, “curiosity killed the hour” it took to go through the list and uncover the answer to my question.

What’s Behind a Business Comeback?

Traffic-Circle

Based on this very loose analysis, the top five most frequent successful business strategy moves for these business comeback stories are:

  1. New Products: 14 (of 20 comebacks)
  2. New Leaders: 10
  3. Enhanced Brand Experience: 9
  4. New Business Lines: 6
  5. (Tie) Enhanced Advertising/Marketing and Bankruptcy: 5 each

New product growth and turnaround leaders were the most cited factors while only four profiles mentioned major cost cutting efforts, and three highlighted downsizing. Given the magazine’s focus, this list is not a big surprise.

Under different circumstances, it would be intriguing to big deeper into the list and look for more patterns. Since the list is subjective, the very brief profiles are nowhere near comprehensive, and there is a lot of my interpretation in this, however, it is not worth any more time killing.

If you would like to review the analysis with my notes on the comeback proof points Fast Company offers and my “short story” on each comeback, click the image below and go to the PDF.

FC-Comebacks

What are your takeaways from this list of business comebacks? And are there other ones from the past twenty years you would add to the list? – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for stronger new product innovations to drive your business comeback?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness comebacks often tie to introducing new products that more strongly resonate with customers.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enable your brand to ideate, prioritize, and develop the innovative growth ideas to spur a business comeback. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

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

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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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In light of yesterday’s article on living a life of no surprises, I received a related question the other day: “What can you do if you are trying to do strategic planning and implementation within an event-driven environment where uncontrollable situations can wreak havoc on the organization’s priorities and focus?”

Here are four steps we recommend for strategic planning when you are trying to anticipate unplanned events and their potential impact.

Step 1 – Anticipate Unplanned Events

An important strategic planning step in this type of environment is to anticipate as many of the potential events as you can. This applies even if you cannot control all of the possible occurrences that could derail the strategic plan’s implementation. We have shared a few Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises previously to help accomplish this exploration including:

The key is being able to efficiently generate as long a list of potential future events as is possible, practical, and addressable.

Future-Look

Photo by hjalmeida

Step 2 – Identify High-Impact Unplanned Events

How then do you prepare to prioritize and perform strategic planning while recognizing all the potential events you have identified?

You can prioritize the list by having individuals rate each event for its potential maximum magnitude and the probability of each event actually happening. Multiplying the two answers for each possible event provides a quick sense of the potential relative magnitude across all the events.

Step 3 – Plan the First Few Steps

Next, identify the first several tactics you would pursue if each event were to happen. You do not need to outline a complete strategic plan for each event. Instead, concentrate on detailing the first three tactics you would want to have ready to go should the event surface.

>>Link to Mike and Angie traveling post (2008)

Step 4 – Prioritize the Most Applicable Tactics

Finally, look across the events and the initial tactics you identified for each. What are the common actions within the first few steps for multiple events? This look offers a sense of the highest-impact, most flexible moves you can make when events start to change.

Simple and Done

This is obviously a very high-level approach to better handling strategic planning in an event-driven environment.

If this high-level approach is not sufficient for addressing your organization’s tolerance for event-based risk, you can do much more in-depth scenario planning.

But if your organization avoids this issue completely because it struggles to reach an aggressive level of strategic planning detail, a simple approach is far better than ignoring potential vulnerabilities and simply hoping implementation-altering events just don’t happen. – Mike Brown

 

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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Before a creative thinking workshop, a “front row” participant (you know, the “walking in the room already engaged in the content” type of participant) asked what school of thinking The Brainzooming Group belonged to with respect to our creative thinking approaches. She dropped a couple of potential names she suspected as possibilities. I may have already been in pre-presentation mode and didn’t completely catch what she said, because only one name sounded familiar.

I shared with her that we borrow from anywhere when it comes to schools of thought for creative thinking, and that many are quite non-traditional. I mentioned she’d see one strategic thinking exercise just added back into the workshop based on Ghostbusters (Yes, THAT Ghostbusters)!

Creative-Inspiration-Bulbs

One advantage of looking broadly for creative thinking influences is we’re never stuck waiting for some expert to publish a new book or article to expand our set of strategic thinking exercises. To the contrary, the Brainzooming repertoire changes and grows continuously through new techniques and influences.

The discussion prompted telling her the proper answer should be a Brainzooming blog post. In a similar vein, we’ve covered the A to Z of Strategic Thinking Exercises (which referenced some influences), and discussed in another where strategic thinking exercises in  workshop originated.

This list of creative thinking influences, however, is different.

Reviewing the slides, stories, and blog posts from the creative thinking workshop deck yielded this list of fifty-nine influences. They aren’t in any specific order, and it certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of all our influences (especially since very few people I have worked with directly are on the list).

Nevertheless, this gives you a good representation of why it’s tough to describe a specific school of thought you can connect to Brainzooming.

59 Creative Thinking Influences

  1. Chuck Dymer
  2. Edward de Bono
  3. Greg Reid
  4. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives
  5. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
  6. Ted Williams – The Science of Hitting
  7. A.T. Kearney
  8. Gary Singer
  9. Interbrand
  10. Monty Python
  11. Sue Mosby
  12. 75 Cage Rattling Questions
  13. Linus Pauling
  14. Woodrow Wilson
  15. Ghostbusters
  16. The Wall Street Journal
  17. Business Week
  18. Fast Company
  19. Cake Boss
  20. What Not to Wear
  21. The Bible
  22. Dilbert
  23. Milind Lele, Ph.D.
  24. Presentation Zen
  25. Tom Peters
  26. Don Martin
  27. Hank Ketchum
  28. The Scream
  29. The Squirrels in Prairie Village, KS
  30. Steve Bruffett
  31. Enterprise IG
  32. David Bowen, Ph.D.
  33. Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership
  34. FedEx
  35. Seth Godin
  36. Joe Batista
  37. Tony Vannicola
  38. Peter’s Laws
  39. Whoever invented the 4-box matrix
  40. Gordon MacKenzie
  41. Appreciate Inquiry
  42. David Cooperrider, Ph.D.
  43. Benjamin Zander
  44. Keith Prather
  45. Brett Daberko
  46. Philip Kotler, Ph.D.
  47. Robin Williams
  48. Improv Comedy
  49. Jim Collins
  50. Jay Conrad Levinson
  51. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
  52. Jan Harness
  53. Muhammad Ali
  54. R.E.M.
  55. Music Fake Books
  56. Seinfeld
  57. Gilligan’s Island
  58. Whoever came up with the concept of Reverse Engineering
  59. The Family Feud

Shout outs to everyone and everything on this list. It’s clear we need to write blog posts on a variety of these creative inspirations because Brainzooming wouldn’t be what it is without you! – Mike Brown

 

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

 

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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Do you really need to spend time exploring and developing your business strategy?

As a strategy person, I think it’s smart to do so.

But given organizations we run across who decide to put off developing business strategy because they’re too busy, it’s not the right time, or it seems unnecessary to invest in outside support to help ensure they are creating strategic impact, you might wonder whether developing strategy ISN’T that important.

Yet when we talk later with those organizations that put off strategy development, it’s not as if there weren’t issues that surfaced. Sometimes there are a lot of issues; sometimes, there are fewer issues.

Cat-or-get-off-the-pot

Cat or Get Off the Pot

10 Downsides of Ignoring Developing Your Business Strategy

Here’s a sampling of the issues that frequently materialize when you delay developing strategy:

  1. Doing something multiple times because it didn’t work the first time.
  2. Wasting resources because of starting down certain paths and then having to back track.
  3. Boxing your brand in because of ignoring or precluding strategic options.
  4. You miss more attractive business growth opportunities you didn’t take the time to consider.
  5. You don’t move forward with anything because you don’t have the facts in place to make a business case for change.
  6. Everyone continues to bemoan perennial business issues you don’t ever effectively figure out how to address.
  7. What is implemented fails to fully match the expectations in place for its success.
  8. Other initiatives of lesser strategic importance and scope emerge to tie up the organization’s time, attention, and resources.
  9. The organization keeps doing what it’s always been doing until it crashes into a wall when what it’s always been doing suddenly stops working.
  10. Your competitors advance feaster than your brand does so you wind up losing ground.

Don’t put off developing strategy or ignore the benefits of bringing a fresh perspective to exploring and planning your brand’s direction. Call or email us, today. We know how to move you through developing strategy in a hurry with a focus on successful implementation. You’ll be better off for it! – 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.

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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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