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We’ve been blessed to work with some wonderful non-profit organizations at The Brainzooming Group.

The first was Nature Explore, a wonderful organization headed by Nancy Rosenow. Nature Explore partners with organizations who hope to dramatically improve the lives of children by introducing them to the benefits of natural environments. It does this through workshops, design consultations, and natural products to transform children’s lives by creating connections with nature.

Beyond the incredible work our non-profit clients do, I enjoy working with them because we typically have a little more freedom to directly share the creative thinking impact they create for their stakeholders

RAFT Colorado and Creative Thinking for Teachers

Raft-SessionOur latest non-profit client is RAFT Colorado;

The Brainzooming Group has been working with the organization’s leadership and board on strategy and branding development. RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) uses discarded materials (such as plastic bottles, bottle caps, paper rolls, envelopes, rubber bands, etc.) to develop activity kits and idea sheets teachers can purchase inexpensively.

These kits enhance interactive learning and inspire students in the STEAM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math).

Well into the assignment, we had been using online collaboration and conference calls for our strategy and branding work. This past weekend, however, I had the opportunity to visit RAFT Colorado for an in-person strategy session with the organization’s board and its team, including executive director, Stephanie Welsh.

Creative Inspiration

From the minute I arrived, I was bowled over by the creative inspiration and energy in the brightly colored warehouse in downtown Denver. Beyond the inspiring colors, it was fun to look through the interactive, pre-planned activities teachers can purchase and incorporate into their learning programs to inspire creative thinking and other important skills.

Of particular interest were this striking inspiration wall and the art projects sprinkled throughout the space, including a flying pig, and a handcrafted Star Wars chess set made from champagne corks by Nick Haag, one of the team members at RAFT.

RAFT-Imagine-Wall

140220-RAFT-Pictures

And what about the Sharpie Markers?

Finally, for our all-day strategy session Saturday, I was thrilled to have Sharpie markers for sale outside the classroom we were using for a strategic planning venue. For a guy always focused on having enough Sharpie markers with him, it was great to have an ample supply and the extra dots needed to complete a two-part multi-voting exercise on branding words.

I can’t wait to advance the strategy and branding work to its final form and return to RAFT Colorado to both present the work and to spend more time recharging my creative inspiration! – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you with a strategy session and branding development to create strategic impact for your organization.

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 a Strategic Thinking workshop recently, a participant from the largest business unit of a multinational company asked, “How, when it comes to corporate strategy, can the “tail can wag the dog”?

Put another way, he wondered how his business unit, which feels hemmed in by corporate strategy directives, can better influence or vary the corporation’s direction.

6 Ideas for the Tail Wagging the Corporate Strategy Dog

caymanAnswering his question generated these six ideas. The ideas range from the least risky to the most risky from both an organizational and a personal standpoint:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to outperform expectations even following a sub-optimum corporate strategy (in order to earn the right for greater latitude and experimentation)
  2. Identify new and better ways to deliver on the corporate objectives that stretch the organization in positive ways
  3. Build a rock solid business case demonstrating superior returns from an alternative strategy
  4. Assess what type of strategic change the organization needs and reach out to corporate leaders to make the case for moving forward with a different strategy
  5. Wait out the current direction until it changes, and you can pursue a more targeted strategy
  6. Create a stealth effort to push forward with targeted initiatives

While it seems numbers five and six are wildly different (i.e., one is suggesting “toe the line” and the other is advocating for going against the corporate strategy in a clandestine way), they are both very risky.

If the business unit truly has to sub-optimize to follow the prescribed corporate strategy, it should be a very conscious decision – not the accidental fallout of a strategic disconnect within the organization.

Similarly, making the decision to advance particular initiatives that are right for a business unit but clearly outside corporate strategy may be possible. But pursuing this strategy could be a recipe for huge problems for leadership and the overall organization.

That’s why both five and six, although wildly different strategies, are both very risky. If you decide to go there, be careful . . . very careful! 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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FASTTRACI’m at Ft. Leavenworth today speaking to a group in the Kauffman FastTrac® NewVenture™ program.

The participants are active duty military personnel exploring business ideas for when they transition out of the Army over the next year.

The session topic is marketing strategy and implementation, addressing planning and implementation challenges, cost-effective marketing strategies, maximizing social media for a new business, and entrepreneurship lessons.

The four related marketing strategy question are included below along with links to Brainzooming blog articles containing more detail on each.

1. What are common challenges planning or implementing marketing strategy?

2. What are creative, cost-effective marketing activities?

3. What are the best uses of social media?

4. Based on your start up experience, what are your marketing strategy lessons?

These links are a good starting point for anyone exploring entrepreneurship and the marketing capabilities they need to address upfront.

What other suggestions would you add for these individuals who are serving our country as they prepare to transition to the next phases of their careers? Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

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It’s the time of year where you have already presented your overall strategy for this year. For most companies, the focus is now on further developing, refining, and sharing more detailed business strategy plans.

If this is the case in your organization, your senior team is likely sitting through multiple business strategy presentations.

No matter how invested (financially or otherwise) the senior team members may be in the initiatives, it’s easy for PowerPoint overload  to make the business strategy presentations run together for them.

Applying Creative Thinking Skills to a Business Strategy Presentation

To enhance your deliver, here are nine ways to present a business strategy to your senior team with panache.

Mad-Consumer1. Make a video

Bring people who can’t be there into the presentation or add a touch of pre-developed drama or humor by incorporating a short original video to illustrate key themes in your business strategy.

2. Introduce costumed characters

Only go here if you have solid (albeit non-professional) acting talent on your team. If so, introducing a character into the meeting at a key point definitely adds memorability.

3. Perform a song

As with costumed characters, you need talent to make this work. Add lyrics to a popular song to convey the strategic messages you want your senior team to really remember.

4. Go somewhere spectacular for the presentation

“Spectacular” is relative. Perhaps presenting your business strategy at a museum or other creativity-inducing spot will make your ideas stand out. If you can arrange a truly spectacular option (either based on geography or setting), it could be a solid investment.

5. Write a magazine article from the future covering the plan’s success

With a longer-term business strategy, you can create a feature article from a future business magazine issue to report how much better and different things have been based on implementing your recommendations.

6. Wrap it in education

If your area of responsibility includes social media or other technical areas unfamiliar to your senior team, attach an educational segment to the business strategy presentation. A smarter audience will be better prepared to understand your business strategy.

7. Feature your customers – in person or virtually

To provide a better sense of the customer needs you are addressing, invite customers into your business strategy presentation in-person or through phone, online, or video channels.

8. Translate the strategy into stories and pictures

You cannot necessarily put elaborate stories and pictures together at the last minute. This approach does provide a little more time flexibility, however, than video or presenting in alternative locations. Poll those involved in your business strategy for both stories and images to illustrate how you are creating strategic impact.

9. Make it into a game

Create a Jeopardy grid with subjects and relevant answers, putting strategy categories at the top. Then use the “answer is a question” format from Jeopardy to create a menu of choices your senior team can use to focus where they want more information on your business strategy recommendation.

How much panache are you up for with your business strategy presentation?

And yes, I’ve used all of these previously, so they’re road tested in varying shapes and sizes, including creating a movie of our company’s new vision, presenting the new plan at Arrowhead Stadium, and publishing a faux Business Week article covering our industry from five years into the future.

How are you thinking about presenting your business strategies this year? –  Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social 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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GolfballLet’s talk about project management techniques by way of the old joke about a golfer who gets home after a round of golf and tells his wife it was the most exhausting round of golf ever. When she asks why, he tells her he was playing with his buddy, Frank, who had a heart attack and died on the 10th hole.

She replied, “Oh my gosh, that must have been horrible.”

“You’re not kidding,” he said, “The whole rest of the round it was ‘Hit the ball, drag Frank; hit the ball, drag Frank.”

Identifying “Lazy” Early

The phenomenon of “Hit the ball, drag Frank,” can feel like working on a project team with a team member whose laziness renders them dead to the project. Who hasn’t been on a project team where it feels like, “Work on the project, drag Frank; work on the project, drag, Frank”?

If Frank has been on one of your project teams before, you may know ahead of time what is ahead of you. If you have a project team with new, unfamiliar teammates, however, are there ways to determine upfront who will and won’t perform as the team tries to reach its strategic objectives?

We typically find project team members fall down because of either of two types of laziness:

  • Mental laziness – They aren’t up to doing strategic thinking, working on issues, and taking necessary actions.
  • Organizational laziness  – They don’t – or can’t – work diligently with the people and processes critical to creating strategic impact.

Either one is frustrating. Someone who exhibits both of these types of laziness, however, can cripple a project team and its efforts.

Project Management Techniques to Address a Lazy Project Team Member

Here’s one of our project management techniques you use early on in a project to identify any “Franks” so you can start planning for alternatives to dragging them throughout the project.

Talk to team members (especially new ones) early, asking questions about their expectations and initial thoughts on potential solutions for the team successfully accomplishing its objectives and creating strategic impact. As each individual team member responds, listen to their answers. Which cell in this matrix do their answers most closely resemble?

laziness-grid-2

Based on where the responses fall, you can get an early sense of whether your project team contains some individuals with mental laziness, organizational laziness, or both.

Depending on the team composition you can start planning and implementing other project management techniques to minimize the amount of time and effort you will have to expend dragging Frank through the upcoming project. – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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 your strategic plan for the year is ready to go. Congratulations!

Maybe you are still working on your strategic plan. That’s completely understandable, and you’re still in pretty good shape to be ready for next year.

Maybe you are so focused on this year you have not even had a chance to begin thinking about a strategic plan for the upcoming year. You may want to skip ahead to the last paragraph!

Two Strategic Thinking Questions to Ask

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

No matter which category you are in with your strategic plan, here are two strategic thinking questions we highly recommend you ask and answer for this year as you look ahead to next year:

  • Where did the big surprises – both good and bad – come from in our organization this year?
  • Where did things happen this year in our organization where we lacked key insights ahead of time?

With answers to these two strategic thinking questions, you will have a helpful tweak to the strategic planning you have already done.

Alternatively, you will have additional ideas to help you focus on important areas to prioritize for the strategic planning you still need to do.

And by the way, if you need help getting an innovative strategic planning still completed before we get too far into next year, contact. We will get you Brainzooming! – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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 is said that when the legendary college football coach Woody Hayes was asked why he preferred to run the football ball rather than pass it, Hayes replied, “Only three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad.”

As the Dilbert cartoon helps illustrate, you encounter much the same odds when your business strategy is developed exclusively by senior management.

Dilbert.com

Much like with a forward pass, three things can happen and two of them are bad.

  1. As in the case of Dilbert, the business strategy has a huge defect that the group that developed either it could not see or, because of groupthink or confirmation bias, would not see.
  2. The business strategy is sound, but because it is both unfamiliar to and lacks buy-in from anyone outside senior management, implementation fails.
  3. You get lucky, the business strategy is sound—even though it lacks diverse perspectives—and your organization is strong enough at implementation so you wind up creating strategic impact.

But why depend upon luck and extraordinary implementation for your business strategy to succeed?

By involving diverse participants in your strategic planning process, you can flip those odds. Involving the right people, and even the right groups of people, beyond senior management contributes toward creating strategic impact in three very important ways:

  1. It increases, sometimes exponentially, the number of ideas and strategies you develop and consider. And it greatly increases the variety and scope of those ideas and strategies.
  2. It helps those ideas and strategies be more thoroughly and critically refined and analyzed.
  3. It helps with implementation. A strategic planning process involving diverse participants comes with built in buy-in from the types of people that will have to understand and believe in the business strategy to implement it successfully.

It is, of course, possible to mess up a strategic plan developed through involving a broader base of people. If you lack strong strategic planning tools or if you choose or use participants inappropriately, bad things can still happen. But those two challenges can be dealt with by employing effective and tested planning processes and methods.

They do not rely upon luck and individual or small group brilliance. – Barrett Sydnor


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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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