Strategic Planning | The Brainzooming Group - Part 30 – page 30
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Want to manage meetings and group business discussions more effectively?

One effective strategy is to put a time limit on meeting discussions and use a timer to stick to the allotted time.

We do this in collaborative Brainzooming™ sessions all the time. While participants usually make fun of the beeping kitchen timer, invariably by the end of a strategy session, they appreciate that our facilitation approach allowed us to stay on time and accomplish what we intended.

Often I’ll hear, as I did in a recent instance, the management team we worked with suggesting it start using a timer in its own business conversations, even when Brainzooming isn’t around.

Just one caution to employing this time limiting strategy successfully: the entire Brainzooming process is built around techniques and exercises that are highly effective at rapidly generating and refining ideas from group discussions. So if a timer is bringing discussions to timely stop, but you’re not getting as much as you need from the conversation, let us know. We can help you by Brainzooming through the time much more efficiently and effectively. – Mike Brown

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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It’s always interesting to learn about what you do through someone else’s eyes. When there’s an opportunity for candid feedback, use it to refine your business strategy and look more innovatively at your performance.

The Brainzooming™ Group had a wonderful opportunity to get reactions to our strategic planning process last week from Nate Riggs. Nate started Social Business Strategies to help mid-sized & large organizations develop social media strategies and build internalized Human Business Teams.

Last Tuesday, The Brainzooming Group facilitated a large (35 person) social media strategic planning session for a four-year university. Nate Riggs was invaluable for his experience in working with other higher educational institutions on social media approaches.

We modified several Brainzooming strategy-building exercises to facilitate the large group and came away with great learnings. Nate’s first-time reactions to how we efficiently and effectively manage strategic conversations were also helpful in continuing to refine our process. You can get a quick sense of Nate’s views in this video and in his follow-up blog post on the strategic planning session.

Take a look, and let us know any questions you have on the approach, either for large groups or for developing social media strategy. – Mike Brown

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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I sat through a poorly managed, business-wide meeting to allegedly solicit perspectives for an organization’s vision statement. Rather than using creative thinking exercises to help collectively form a strong vision, however, the leader directly asked the entire team what the vision should be.  Participants then sat quietly as only a few people spoke (one-at-a-time) to offer opinion-filled perspectives.

Beyond being incredibly boring for everyone, think about this: What was the cost of 40 or 50 well-paid people sitting around mostly twiddling their thumbs for 3 hours, as perhaps 10 of them actively participated at any point?

What a way to waste time, creativity, and goodwill for future strategic planning.

Strategic Planning Doesn’t Have to Kill Creativity

Do yourself a favor. Bookmark this article, and if you find yourself in an organization trying to develop a vision statement, PLEASE don’t take the same approach I endured! Here’s what to do:

  • Break into small groups where multiple people can actively participate at the same time to stretch the group’s thinking and share creative ideas.
  • DON’T ASK the obvious question, “What should our vision be?” Going right to this question won’t save time or improve results. People don’t talk in ready-made “vision statements.” This one-question approach simply draws out monologues doing little to coalesce a group’s collective perspective.
  • Instead, ask strong strategic planning questions to get participants to share the important words, phrases, and ideas that shape a vision. Such questions include:
    • What is our organization passionate about doing for our people and our customers?
    • What are we best at and where can we continue to excel?
    • Who will our customers be five years from now? What do we think will be important for us to deliver in best serving them?
    • What are capabilities we want to put in place to stretch our organization and better serve our audiences?
    • What are the things we need to concentrate on to dramatically exceed our goals and objectives?
  • Have small groups report their answers to these questions. Listen intently and write down ALL the ideas the group shares.

From this treasure trove of input, you’ll be ready to construct an overarching statement born from active participation and the hopes and language of your organization. Plus people will actually be excited about participating the next time you need them to do strategic thinking.

Oh, and by the way: The Brainzooming Group is great at facilitating these types of discussions so you get maximum participation. We actually generate creativity and enthusiasm through how we approach a team’s strategic conversations. Email me at info@brainzooming.com, and let’s talk about how we can help you deliver great results for your organization. – Mike Brown

Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


Download Your FREE eBook! Big Strategy Statements - 3 Steps to Collaborative Strategy



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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Maybe I’m too much of an event planning strategist at heart, but I ALWAYS want a Plan B. Even if things almost always go as planned, creating an alternative strategic plan protects you beyond when your business strategy doesn’t work correctly. The strategic issues you think through when creating Plan B often lead to innovations which make Plan A so much stronger.

This strategy was top of mind last week after seeing Doug Merrill, former CIO of Google speak at the Thinking Bigger Speaker Series sponsored by Kelly Scanlon’s KC Small Business.

During his basic and brief presentation, Merrill talked about the micro and macro advantages of storing your data in the cloud and the downside of traditional methods of storing and printing data. He underscored the strategic advantage of using Google applications to provide universal accessibility and searchability for your data.

Great idea, and when Google has a stock price well over $500, it’s SO benevolent, and it does funny April Fool’s Day stuff (such as calling itself “Topeka” in appreciation of Topeka, KS renaming itself Google), the strategy of storing everything with Google is a viable, innovative Plan A.

Suppose though some future cataclysm befalls Google. Wouldn’t it be a smart innovative strategy to have a Plan B to protect yourself?

And think about this: Is the Google Plan B business strategy to position itself as “Too Critical to Fail” as self-protection against who knows what bizarre future financial meltdown or data terrorism strike that may happen?

I’m not saying; I’m just wondering and thinking about my own Plan B’s. – Mike Brown

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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Did you notice the incredible full moon last week? Especially at its rising and setting, the moon, at least as seen from here in Kansas City, loomed very large and clear.

Its magnificent size, however, is an optical illusion. It’s caused by our human inability to visually process the moon’s size accurately relative to its distance from us. Against objects in the foreground we see the moon as much larger than when it’s over head. Cut out the distraction of the foreground with our hands, and the moon appears no bigger than when it’s high above us.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to large objects in the sky with us humans. It’s frequently applicable to how we view life’s challenges. As potentially major issues appear on the horizons of our lives, we see them relative to near term pressures and concerns in the foreground. In this position, problems can seem unbelievably large and clear, even when they are in reality much smaller.

When you’re facing a situation such as this, strategic thinking approaches can help eliminate the foreground issues of our lives. A strategic perspective places us in a much better position to view potential challenges realistically and with a creative problem solving strategy. – Mike Brown

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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I used to ask weekly on Twitter what strategic or innovation topics people would like to see addressed in Brainzooming articles. One request from back then was to write about how not to over think business strategy. Having been in a business where it seemed you’d hear “don’t over think it” five times a day, the topic hit a little too close to home, and I didn’t ever do a post on it.

Time's Running OUtNow, with a little distance, I offer some strategic thinking questions to ask your team when you need to quickly move into convergent thinking mode during business planning:

  • Does this issue really matter for our business opportunity? Will it materially change any important business results?
  • What if we could only implement one innovative strategy in this situation? What would it be?
  • If we had only 25% of the time (or resources), would we concentrate our efforts on this business opportunity?
  • Without any additional information, what does our experience suggest as the most successful potential business option?
  • If we had to halt our business planning and make a decision in the next five minutes, what would it be?

Couple any of these strategic questions with a fixed amount of time for dialogue (i.e., “We’ll talk about this for 10 minutes) and a required decision (i.e., “When time’s up, you have to briefly state what business decision you’d recommend or the course of action you’d take right now).

You may not get the most rigorously vetted, innovative ideas, but using a strategic thinking exercise and a limited amount of discussion time will help quickly catalyze your strategy decision so you can move to implementation. – Mike Brown

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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Raise your hand if you’re trying to hit plan with fewer marketing resources than you had last year or the year before. Okay, that looks like just about everybody; put your hands down.

Knowing what specific strategy works may be difficult to determine, but here are 12 strategies you should consider when facing limited marketing dollars and people:

  • Don’t make across the board cuts – it’s easy to do the math, but it leads to crappy results. Go all in on high potential, innovative strategies and cut others out completely.
  • Stop doing things that don’t add value for customers. Ask them what they don’t use or need, and especially find out what you do they’re not even aware of. All candidates for elimination.
  • Don’t eliminate your thinking time. It’s easy (and stupid) to think you can stop strategic thinking as a way to save time and get on with implementation. With fewer resources, you’ll need planning to make sure you get things right the first time. It’s painful and costly to fix screw-ups once you discover them in-market.
  • Set your goals higher to force radically re-considering how you deliver for customers.  It seems contradictory, but stiffer goals will push you to explore what really matters and what you’re willing to sacrifice today for potential success tomorrow.
  • Figure out who else in your organization has appropriate talents & might want to help grow the business.  A lot of times people are looking for new ways to contribute, grow, and develop strategically when there aren’t dollars for training.
  • Build on strategies you already have in place. Don’t needlessly create new messaging with no built-in awareness. Even something generally on strategy may work harder for you than the perfect strategy which requires starting from scratch in getting customers to understand it.
  • Beyond using what you already have in place, see if strategies that have worked previously might be right to pull out again. Chances are if a strategy resonated before, some part of your audience will remember it, making the sell-in easier.
  • Also test some innovative concepts you explored before but never used. Is now the time to try them out in a new market situation?
  • As you plan your marketing strategy, make sure everything you do is designed to create multiple impacts. You have to get more from what you do if you’re going to be successful. It’s too expensive to pursue strategies which will work in only one-off market situations.
  • Make sure you’re taking advantage of every customer contact to test, learn, and/or adjust your marketing mix. You may not have dollars for formal research, so you need to learn as much as you can every day, even if the learning methods are non-traditional. Adjust and learn what you can.
  • Stretch your team in new ways to make them stronger performers and better leaders. Muscles get stronger when you challenge them repeatedly. Same with people and teams.
  • Strengthening muscles also need time to recover if they’re going to get bigger. Same with people and teams. Make time to celebrate great contributions and the wins you deliver to help sustain and motivate your team.

Those are my twelve. What would you add to the list? – Mike Brown

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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