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Obviously, innovation is a key topic on the Brainzooming blog. Here’s a recap of fifty innovation in business articles from 2012, including several by Woody Bendle.

INNOVATION STRATEGY

1.       Innovation Success – Innovating, Strategy & Pissing Off People – You’d think from reading many innovation blogs that you have to piss someone off to demonstrate your innovative thinking skills. I don’t buy that.

2.      Strategic Thinking Exercise – Black Swan Events in Your Plan – Will the completely unexpected thwart your innovation strategy? You can’t predict the unpredictable but you can anticipate your responses.

3.      The Waiting Game Strategy and “Wait” by Frank Partnoy – Making It Work – Strategic patience is much overlooked as a solid innovation strategy. Here’s one point of view on considering a patience strategy.

4.      Incremental Innovation – In Praise of 3 Creative Examples - Barrett Sydnor’s report from the road and home on how incremental innovation may be more than enough.

5.      Innovation – Can Successful Innovation Only Happen in a Certain Way? – It was the year when Jonah Lehrer (who I seemed to always disagree with) was discredited. This rant, from before Jonah Lehrer was discredited, took issue with his anti-brainstorming perspective.

6.      Google Fiber Innovation – Paul Kedrosky on 4 Important Lessons – Barrett Sydnor recaps a presentation by venture capitalist and senior Kauffman fellow Paul Kedrosky on the innovation strategy opportunities presented by Google Fiber.

7.      15 Ways Whoever Is Going to Disrupt Your Market Isn’t Like You – Your traditional competitors may be a pain right now, but they aren’t likely to be the ones who will kill your company without a sound. When it comes to disruptive innovation, your threats don’t typically look like your organization.

8.      Innovation Strategy Lessons from Moneyball - I don’t watch movies often, but when I do watch a movie, I’m looking for business lessons. Here are innovation strategy lessons gleaned from Moneyball.

9.      Television Program Ideas – How Many Ideas Per Television Series? – A real life example from ABC to demonstrate how many total ideas are necessary to get to a hit TV show. Preview: it’s not a two ideas for every hit TV show ratio!

10.  Customer Service Experience Innovation – Your Big Opportunity by Woody Bendle  - Many companies are trying to differentiate on customer experience. If you expect to pursue customer service experience differentiation, it will take a robust approach.

INNOVATION CHALLENGES

11. Disruptive Innovation, Change Management & Taking the NO Out of InNOvation - An updated exploration of the ten barriers to innovation in businesses with links to Brainzooming posts for each NO.

12.  16 Employee Idea Killers Your Management Team Could Be Committing – Some idea killers are blatant. Some idea killers are subtle. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ways management can kill ideas if that’s their goal.

13.  24 Ideas for Dilbert (and You) When a Great New Idea Is Lacking – Inspired by a Dilbert cartoon, you never have to give up on coming up with a new angle on an idea, unless it’s simply easier to give up than try something new.

14.  When Creative Thinking Exercises Quit Providing Value – The brainstorming tools that help you generate new ideas can outlive their usefulness. At some point, an idea stands on its own, irrespective of how it was generated.

15.  Brainstorming Ideas – 10 Signs You’re Done Brainstorming – You may be done brainstorming well before you’re brainstorming session has reached its scheduled close.

16.  Brainstorming Is Challenging with these 6 Brainstorming Session Types – There are certain types of people who pose real challenges to effective brainstorming. Here are six types of people you may have to work around to keep the brainstorming ideas going.

INNOVATION TECHNIQUES

17.  Innovation Success Through Planning, Preparation, and Organization by Woody Bendle – An overview of the nine-step, end-to-end, i3 Continuous Innovation Process prolific guest blogger Woody Bendle developed and uses to introduce new innovations.

18.  7 Innovation Lessons for the Google Fiber Project from Nick Donofrio – Seven innovation lesson takeaways shared by Barrett Sydnor from a Google Fiber-related presentation by former IBMer, Nick Donofrio.

19.  Creativity and Innovation Lessons from Desperate Housewives – Even if you never watched Desperate Housewives, the producers share valuable creativity and innovation lessons you can put to use.

20. Five Innovation Lessons from Improv Comedy – by Woody Bendle – Guest blogger Woody Bendle makes the tremendously helpful connection between how improving your improve chops will benefit your innovation skills.

21.  New Business Ideas and a Creative Block in Your Organization – If you suspect your organization is suffering from creative block, it may just be you haven’t taken best advantage of the ideas it has already brainstormed.

22.  Brainstorming Doesn’t Work, Groupthink, and the Brainzooming Method – Some more Jonah Lehrer-inspired perspectives here along with a discussion of how the Brainzooming methodology addresses shortcomings in some ideation approaches.

23.  Continuous Innovation and Continuous Improvement – By Woody Bendle – A strategy for making both  innovation and improvement continuous in an organization as a result of adopting repeatable processes and systematic approaches.

INNOVATIVE PLANNING

24.  Stupid Questions? A Call for Asking Stupid Questions by Woody Bendle – A plea from guest blogger, Woody Bendle, for more questions – no matter how hard, not matter how stupid they may be perceived as being!

25.  15 Innovative Strategic Planning Questions to Get Ready for 2013 – We’re firm believers that great questions lead to great innovation strategy. Here are fifteen innovative strategic planning questions helpful at any time of the year.

26.  Extreme Creative Ideas – 50 Lessons to Improve Creativity Dramatically – This recap article features links to a variety of extreme creative ideas from big creative personalities.

27.  Strategic Thinking Exercises – 6 Characteristics the Best Ones Have – Not all strategic thinking exercises will lead you to innovative thinking. Look for these six characteristics to make sure you have the best chance of pushing productive new ideas.

28.  Creative Process – 5 Creative Ideas with a Twist for Product Design – Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is a personal favorite for extreme creativity ideas. With all the wild food ideas shared on Triple D, it’s also a great source of product design ideas too.

29. Creating Cool Product Names for a New Product Idea – 8 Creative Thinking Questions – Eight questions that will work harder for you than a random brand name generator to imagine what your new product, service, or program should be called.

30.  11 Strategic Questions for Disruptive Innovation in Markets - These questions don’t guarantee disruptive innovation, but they’ll start you down the path of thinking about your own (or somebody else’s) market in a disruptive fashion.

31.  Quickie Strategic Thinking Exercise: Bad Practices to Make You Better – While business people talk about best practices all the time, the key to innovation success could very well be doing the opposite of what notable business failures have done.

32.  Chasing Cool Ideas vs. Solving Consumer Needs – By Woody Bendle – Short story? Cool ideas are only cool if they really solving consumer needs. Target legitimate needs, not imaginary coolness.

33.  Richard Saul Wurman – No New Ideas – TED creator Richard Saul Wurman on his contention there is very little new thinking and no new ideas anymore. Do you agree that all ideas masquerading as new are really derivations of old ideas?

TEAMS AND INNOVATIVE THINKING SKILLS

34.  Creative Thinking Skills – 5 People Vital to Critical Thinking, Literally – People with challenging points of view shouldn’t be excluded from innovation. At the right times and in the right amounts, critical thinking is vital to innovation success.

35.  Making a Decision – 7 Situations Begging for Quick Decisions – While divergent thinking can be among the most enjoyable parts of innovation, there are times where too much thinking can get in the way of making a decision and moving on.

36.  Brainstorming for Creative New Product Ideas – Dilbert, Basketball and Oflow – A comic, a quote, and a new app to all shed light on your innovation efforts.

37.  Visual Thinking Skills – Getting Them in Shape with Letters and Shapes – Even for people who don’t view themselves as artistic or particularly strong in visual thinking skills, a few basic letters and shapes are enough to improve your visual thinking effectiveness.

38.  61 Online and Social Media Resources for Motivating People to Create – Inspired by the Adobe “State of Create” study, this listing of online resources should inspire innovative thinking in many different ways.

39.  The Process of Strategy Planning: 5 Ways to Keep the Boss from Dominating – Even a well-intentioned boss can stand in the way of innovative thinking within a team. Here’s how to get around that challenge.

40.  Reinterpreting Creative Inspiration – 7 Lessons to Borrow Creative Ideas  – Not every new idea is completely new. You can borrow creative inspiration, but there are right and wrong ways to do it!

41.  Batter Up! Ten Moneyball-Inspired Innovation Roles by Woody Bendle – One of two Moneyball-inspired innovation posts, this one from Woody Bendle highlights ten innovation roles . . . nine players plus the designated hitter’s worth!

42.  Dirty Ideas? Let Others Clean Up Your Creative Thinking - It may be the best way to generate innovative ideas among your team is to not finish your own thinking. Get started, but don’t clean up your work before handing off what you’ve developed so your team can play with your dirty ideas.

INNOVATION IN PRACTICE

43.  Major Change Management – Managing Ongoing Performance Gaps – Major change definitely isn’t one and done. Following any significant innovation, you’ll have stragglers who will need to be brought along with more attention.

44.  Outsider Perspectives – 6 Vital Insights They Offer - Don’t shut yourself off from people who have less or no experience with what your organization does. People with outsider perspectives will always uncover things you haven’t seen before.

45.  Skepticism – Selling Ideas to Answer 10 Skeptical Perspectives – There are no guarantees that everyone will love even the most innovative thinking. Here are ideas for addressing die hard skeptics standing in the way of implementing innovation.

46.  Making Big Ideas Happen – 9 Ways to Address Innovation Fear – As you roll-out innovative ideas, fear is a roadblock emotion. Successful innovation means you have to combat  fears  status quo lovers cling to in resistance.

47.  No Implementation Success? 13 Reasons Things Getting Done Is a Problem – The best innovative thinking doesn’t count for much if you can’t get it implemented. Here are thirteen issues to manage as you shift to implementation mode.

48.  Creating Change and Change Management – 4 Strategy Options – Before you launch into innovation, determine what your organizational environment suggests about what level and type of innovation makes the most sense now.

49.  March Madness and What Outstanding Point Guards Bring to Business Teams – There are many similarities between what makes a great point guard in basketball and what makes a successful innovation implementer.

50.  Creative Thinking and Idea Magnets – 11 Vital Creative Characteristics – Certain people bring out the most innovative thinking from those around them. This article covers eleven of the vital characteristics idea magnets bring to the table. – Mike Brown

 

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

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic ideas! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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 haven’t started already, there’s not much time left to make sure your organization is asking itself innovative strategic planning questions and looking for top opportunities before 2013 starts.

The good news in all this, however, is it’s ALWAYS a good time for strategic thinking and considering innovative strategic planning questions. No matter when it is, you can use great questions to push your strategic thinking and move you into increasingly smarter, more differentiated, and successful market strategies.

Strategic Thinking Questions for 2013

Reviewing conference tweets, Brainzooming strategic planning engagements, and leftovers in our strategic thinking exercise R&D lab, here are fifteen innovative strategic planning questions (plus a bonus ice breaker question) to move to the top of your strategic planning questions list – whether you’ve started planning or not!

Strategy & Purpose Questions

  • When we say our purpose and messages aloud to someone outside our business, do these statements make sense? (Evan Conway, president of OneLouder, a Kansas City-based mobile app developer)
  • What would you do differently if you HAD TO get 10x better / bigger in the next 12 months? (An incredibly challenging question was inspired by Chuck Dymer – Brilliance Activator)

Strategic Marketing Questions

  • How can we shift more value to the front end of a customer relationship, not charging anything until later when the customer fully realizes the benefit? (Inspired by TEDxKC presenter, Shai Reshef)
  • Have we set a pace for our brand experience to allow a customer to get the maximum value from our brand? (Inspired by Julian Zugazagoitia, Director of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art at TEDxKC)
  • What are our organization’s passion and purpose, and how are we effectively and innovatively marketing them? (From BigIdeas12 conference tweets)

Strategic Innovation Questions

  • How can we get more ideas at early stages when it’s easier and less expensive to incorporate great ideas? (Inspired by Rob Grace of Bazillion Pictures)
  • What can be removed from what we do / produce? (A variation on a Steve Jobs question to drive simplicity, via Ken Segall, author of “Insanely Simple” affiliate link)
  • In what ways can we innovate to offer “more for less”? (Michael Raynor, author of “The Innovator’s Manifesto” affiliate link)
  • To identify potential innovation opportunities, what are the most frequent workarounds customers are asking our sales, customer service, and other representatives to perform?
  • How can we break up big change into pieces too inconsequential to fail (i.e., no matter what happens, we’ll either meet our objectives or learn so much when we don’t, we still win)?

Customer and Market Questions

  • Who specifically is representing the customer 24/7 in our business?
  • What benefits are our customers seeking when they buy from us, and who else is poised to deliver those benefits to them?

Learning Organization Questions

  • Who are our rising stars two jobs away from ever being included in strategic planning that need to be included starting right now?
  • What makes the work our organization does worth it for our employees? (From author of “The Commitment Engine” author, John Jantsch at TEDxKC affiliate link)
  • How are we learning (individually and as an organization) by doing, failing, collaborating, creating, and teaching? (Danya Cheskis-Gold of Skillshare at BigIdeas12)

And a Bonus 16th Strategic Thinking Question – My New Favorite Ice Breaker

  • If you could have the characters in any painting come to life, which painting would you choose? (A wonderful ice breaker from Amy Dixon of CreativeRN.com on Twitter that elicits very diverse and insightful answers)

Still Need to Get Your Strategic Planning Set for 2013?

If you’d like help in developing your annual plan done faster than ever, call us at 816-509-5320 or email info@brainzooming.com. Our Brainzooming name means what it says: we’ll stretch your brains through strategic thinking exercises to consider new opportunities and quickly zoom them into a plan that’s ready for next year when next year starts! We’d love to help you hit next year zooming!   – Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re struggling to create or sustain innovation and growth, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our  strategic thinking, brainstorming, and implementation tools to help you create greater innovation 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 innovation and implementation 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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There is, not surprisingly, a lot of activity on the Brainzooming blog on strategic thinking exercises since they are vital elements in effective strategic planning. As The Brainzooming Group looks at it, strategic thinking exercises are devices to help individuals or teams imagine and address ways to advance organizations / products / programs toward important goals.

What are the characteristics of the best strategic thinking exercises?

Here are six characteristics we design into the strategic thinking exercises we create for strategic planning engagements with clients.

They all need to:

1. Allow everyone to participate – even those with little or no direct experience

We preach the importance of multiple thinking perspectives in developing great strategy. We know some people who participate in strategic planning will have less experience than other participants will. Great exercises, however, accommodate these differences in experience and do not leave anyone without a role based on what they know or have done.

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2. Incorporate emotion

It does not necessarily matter which emotion strategic thinking exercises incorporate. It could be fear, angst, frustration, humor, hope, or passion. Or another emotion. Or some combination of all of those. If your strategy development only depends on logic and does not incorporate emotion, you are missing something.

3. Require people to think atypically

If everyone comes into and leaves a set of strategic thinking exercises without having thought in new ways, there is a major disconnect. There needs to be specific variables built in to ensure people are thinking along new paths and in ways they have not had to consider previously.

4. Introduce a strategic twist that doesn’t match expectations or reality

If you want different perspectives from your current strategy, strategy and brainstorming questions need to go beyond simply what the current situation looks like. They should incorporate an unexpected twist or thinking detour to make participants feel uncomfortable with their standard way of thinking.

5. Create new questions

The more you attempt to answer strategy and brainstorming questions, the more new questions will emerge. Strategic thinking is about exploration. If it’s fruitful exploration, you’re going to uncover strategic paths that will be laden with new questions.

6. Leave room for unanswered issues

This goes along with triggering new questions. Successful strategic thinking exercises can’t be expected to answer everything. The future isn’t certain. The objective should be to consider as many possibilities as possible, even if some, or even many of them, can’t be completely answered right away.

Want examples of our favorite strategic thinking exercises?

Here are some of our go-to strategy exercises and brainstorming questions. We invite you to look at how these could fit into your strategic planning and innovation work:

As usual, they all carry our standard disclaimer: “These exercises appear easier to use then they really are.”

If you want the best results from them, you need to call The Brainzooming Group! When we’re on the case, we’ll guarantee these exercises will be successful as part of your innovation or strategic planning! – Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re struggling to create or sustain innovation success, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our  strategic thinking, brainstorming, and implementation tools to help you create greater innovation 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 innovation and implementation 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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Talking with a potential client, we discussed strategic planning questions for 2013, and how his company approaches strategic planning differently each year. The year-to-year changes are prompted by shortcomings in how effectively it has been able to approach strategic management under various planning methods.

During our conversation, we discussed a variety of strategic planning pitfalls his company has faced. From our experience, there wasn’t anything new or surprising. But what do you do to combat them?

7 Strategic Planning Questions to Ask about Your Organization

To get a sense of the effectiveness of your current or proposed strategic planning process, ask these seven questions. Keep track of your answers since they’ll help identify pitfalls to address in avoiding major strategic management disconnects in 2013 planning efforts:

1. Is our strategic plan organized in a way that makes sense for our company?

Even small organizations with some degree of organizational complexity can struggle to pick the best way to structure and organize a strategic planning process. Who knows whether the strategic plan should be organized by customers, product lines, market opportunities, new initiatives, departments . . . or something else entirely? Not picking the right structure to fit your company can turn both strategic planning and implementing the plan into disasters.

2. Does the timing of our strategic planning process fit our business cycle?

A typical strategic planning approach crams an annual, relatively complex, highly intense effort into a company’s late third or early fourth quarter. This timing almost presupposes the inevitable delays that take place and allow planning to slip into the late fourth quarter without too much harm. While this approach supports getting next year’s budget done in time (just barely), it may totally ignore other strategic management patterns in the company.

3. Is our strategic planning purely a financial and forecasting exercise?

Many organizations view strategic planning as simply a financial and forecasting effort. The line organization generates a forecast (or has one imposed) and estimates costs to hit the revenue target. Often, there is very little detail on how or where revenue growth will originate. When strategic planning is a financial exercise and no one is too concerned with HOW revenue targets are met, managing by the seat of the pants throughout the year wins out over coordinated strategic management.

4. Does our strategic planning seem disconnected from what the company is doing right now?

When the organization’s strategic management mindset is that strategy is only something long-term, you can end up with a strategic plan containing only future initiatives with some far off completion date. Since the “future” never comes, what is identified in the strategic plan may reference only a few current activities. In this case, it becomes largely disconnected from the day-to-day activities that grow a dynamic business.

5. Are we including everything we do in the strategic plan?

Some organizations equate strategic with “all-inclusive.” Strategic planning in this scenario starts with the wonderful intention, but wretched reality, of trying to account for EVERYTHING the organization does and will do. Saddled with too much detail, strategic planning typically starts falling apart during development. If a completed plan actually sees the light of day, it soon falls apart because it has tried to close off the real-time flexing an organization needs to function and succeed.

6. Does our strategic planning process feel too functionally and process-oriented?

When strategic planning is driven by (and by “driven by,” I mean “forced onto”) the line organization by a functional department (i.e., Finance, Marketing, Corporate Development, etc.), there is a real danger. Strategic planning done in this way seems to help functional departments know what to do, but they lack critical connections to how they support P&L-related activities. Who cares about having the best financial processes when you cannot serve and grow your customer base?

7. Do we know who will lead implementation of the completed strategic plan?

When an organization struggles with organizing the plan to be relevant and drive activities, the resulting document typically represents many compromises during its preparation. The plan will have confused connections to the organization, with no clear ownership and responsibility for implementation. As the plan rolls out, it will create numerous situations similar to a short high fly in baseball. If an outfielder and a couple of infielders have surrounded the area where the baseball is headed, but no one knows who is actually supposed to step up and catch it, the baseball drops to the ground through lack of responsibility and coordination.

How did you answer these questions for your organization?

Give yourself one point each for answering “No” to strategic planning questions 1, 2, and 7, or “Yes” to strategic planning questions, 3 through 6. The more points you have, the more of a challenge you’ll have in successful strategic planning and implementation.

If you had a score of more than two or three, and you have strategic planning questions you need to answer regarding how to get your planning completed this year, you owe it to yourself to contact The Brainzooming Group. We’ll troubleshoot your strategic planning issues and offer a no-cost perspective on how to successfully get your strategic planning done and successfully implemented in 2013.  – Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re struggling to lead a viable strategic planning effort, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on 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 planning and implementation 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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Photo by: Bastografie Source: photocase.com

Planning for the unexpected was a focus recently with a client we worked with to create a multi-year strategic plan.

Our client’s chief executive had read “Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (affiliate link). Taleb developed the concept of black swan events to describe unexpected occurrences that precipitate dramatic, history-shaping impacts. With black swan events being so disproportionately rare and generating such disproportionately large impacts (think 9-11 and the emergence of the Internet), people are generally blind to anticipating them. These events are ripe though, for people to “figure them out” after they happen, mistakenly thinking the event could have been anticipated.

Our client asked us to help his leadership team anticipate black swan events, even though, almost by definition, you can’t anticipate them.

But hey, it was a client, so we developed a strategic thinking exercise to address his request. Think of it as a glimpse into the Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise R&D lab!

Imagining the Unexpected in a Strategic Thinking Exercise

As we thought about envisioning black swan events in a strategic thinking exercise, we considered a pivotal scene from “Ghostbusters” (affiliate link). There was a scene in the movie where the Ghostbusters are under threat of the first thought that pops into their heads rising up to destroy them. Dan Akroyd’s character ponders the Stay Puft Marshmallow man since this figure from his childhood seems to be the most harmless thing imaginable. Suddenly, a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow man appeared to hunt down the Ghostbusters on top of a Manhattan building.

We drew a comparison between this “Ghostbusters ” scene and developing questions to consider potential black swan events.

Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, black swan events aren’t independently scary (i.e., a plane is a common item and who would imagine one crashing into a building) or dazzlingly incredible (i.e., a couple of connected computer networks becoming the Internet).

Yet, somehow in both the “Ghostbusters” movie scene and in black swan events, what seems friendly and safe can turn deadly.

Starting with the Benign

Instead of asking questions to identify specific black swans in a strategic thinking exercise, we recommend identifying a list of things in your business seemingly beyond failure – and even as benign as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.

Our initial list of areas to consider includes:

  • Things currently working well– both inside and outside the organization
  • Strong, dependable areas in the organization and its processes
  • Activities increasing in volume and importance because of growing market demand
  • Overlooked aspects of the business considered no big deal
  • Disproportionately complex processes in the organization
  • The organization’s hidden secrets
  • Formerly problematic business areas whose challenges are long forgotten

Once you’ve generated a list from these areas, you can look for themes that emerge.

Turning Your Organizational Imagination into Action

The second step is to begin imagining the impact of things from the list you’ve created blowing up (through extreme failure or success) and whether you would be prepared to respond to these events. This can be a fun strategic destruction exercise for your team.

Across this strategic thinking exercise, you may not have anticipated all or even most of the black swans that might hit; but ideally, you’ll have anticipated a wide range of significant disruptions that could be caused by the black swan events you can’t anticipate.

Do you plan for Black Swan events?

Does (or will) your organization try to plan for black swan events? How do you go about doing it if this is a regular part of your annual planning?

If you’d like some assistance on your next round of strategic planning (whether or not you want to anticipate black swan events), let me know. We’d love to help you imagine your future thoroughly and quickly on the way to better implementation next year. – Mike Brown

        (Affiliate Link)

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

If you’re struggling to generate and implement new ideas, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on 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 innovation 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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If you follow NASCAR, you’re familiar with the term “fuel mileage race.” For those who aren’t NASCAR fans, a fuel mileage race is one where at the end of the race, it’s not necessarily the fastest car that wins. Instead, the NASCAR team that has best employed a fuel-saving and racing strategy allowing it to stay on the track when others have to leave the track to refuel with only a few laps left wins the race. This phenomenon happens based on:

  • The length of the race
  • Typical patterns of racing and caution periods
  • Fuel mileage of the cars

The team that takes advantage of devising and carrying out a solid strategy in these types of situations has used accurate historical insights, preparedness, solid decisions, and stellar implementation to prevail even though it don’t possess the capabilities that usually decide the winner.

How does a fuel mileage race strategy applies to project management?

If you’re wondering what this has to do with project management, reread the previous paragraph.

That description directly applies to situations where multiple internal or external teams are working together to deliver on a major project. It’s rare that everyone involved in an extended project team is the absolute best in their own field. Smaller players on the extended team also often have to deal with a timeline not devised around their delivery processes or capabilities. Nevertheless, if they want to succeed for an internal or external client’s benefit (and their own success), they have to be performing strongly at the end of the project.

7 Steps to Winning a Fuel Mileage Race Project

Based on that comparison, here are 7 steps NASCAR teams take for winning a fuel mileage race that a project team should be thinking about to succeed in a comparable “fuel mileage race” project.

1. Know your expected process efficiency

In a NASCAR race, miles per gallon is key. For a project team, it’s knowing not just the total hours you’ll be investing in a project, but understanding how long each process step typically takes. Knowing that, always look for new ways to remove steps or reduce time to improve your process efficiency.

2. Get off sequence strategically when it makes sense

A NASCAR team will try to fill its car with fuel at off times compared to other teams to gain an advantage in a fuel mileage race. A project team can look for ways to accelerate early or mid-project deliverables to get off cycle and save time for more complex tasks later in the project.

3. Save resources everywhere you can

A NASCAR driver may drive slower or even shut off the engine during certain periods to save fuel. Project teams can take a comparable approach, looking for ways to minimize revisions or unnecessary status meetings; another approach is to handle meetings online vs. traveling to them in-person.

4. Fully exploit your past work

NASCAR teams keep extensive notes on previous fuel miles race performance and will often bring the same car to a track again when it’s been successful. A project team should be looking for ways to build from suitable work that already exists or repurpose previous output to still deliver successfully with greater efficiency.

5. Monitor what and how the other players on your extended project team are doing

Even if you’re using a different strategy, your team still needs to be coordinated with every other party involved on the project team. Keep a pulse on how your team’s dependability, performance, and timeline management are coordinating with others.

6. Anticipate opportunities and challenges ahead of time

Ask questions and go to school on similar work you’ve done or how your internal or external client typically behaves during an extended project. Try to anticipate where timelines will change based on natural delays or rapid pushes to accelerate progress.

7. Be ready for a last-minute twist or turn

For as much strategizing as a NASCAR race team using a fuel mile race strategy will do, something can happen late in the race to completely upset the strategy that’s worked nearly the entire race. Smart project teams should be thinking ahead to what options they’ll have available when projects take unexpected turns. You always want to have an option and room to adapt when the unexpected (at least what others didn’t expect) happens.

Do you see how fuel mileage racing strategy applies to project you’ve supported?

Do you see how this concept has (or could have) helped your project team perform better? What strategies do you use to deliver exceptionally on projects where you aren’t working with the best resources? – 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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3

If you notice The Brainzooming Group message at the bottom of many marketing strategy posts, we mention helping “smart organizations” with strategic evaluation and differentiation strategy development. This phrase is shorthand for how I usually describe our target strategic planning clients: “organizations almost too smart for their own good.”

While that might sound flippant, it’s not.

How Can an Organization Be Too Smart for Strategic Planning?

Being “too smart” for strategic planning happens when an organizations becomes TOO expert at:

When an organization becomes THAT smart, it’s typically because its marketing strategy has been very successful and its market and organization relatively stable. These are the good aspects of being too smart about your organization.

The bad aspect of being too smart means prolonged success and stability can lead to indifference, arrogance, and a lack of solid customer analysis, thorough strategic evaluation, and effective strategic planning to push the organization for future-oriented disruptive innovation.

What to Watch for When Organizations Become Too Smart

There are multiple ways organizations manifest being too smart and losing the drive for disruptive innovation. Based on our collective experience at The Brainzooming Group, here are five signals an organization may be too smart for its own good relative to strategic planning:

  • There is a very stable leadership team with few new members from outside the organization (or industry) in at least ten years.
  • The organization is very stable with new people at junior levels whose challenging ideas are being stifled by senior leader resistance.
  • It’s a market leader with strong share and financials who hasn’t faced serious competitive threats to its marketing strategy for as long as anyone can remember.
  • It’s a smaller player in a large market that’s been able to be comfortable with its size and share position.
  • A company that’s been protected from aggressive competition by a structural advantage (whether regulatory, economic, environmental, etc.) that’s disappearing.

In any of these situations, waiting around for disruptive innovation to happen instead of creating a new differentiation strategy to create beneficial change can be a crippling mistake.

How a Strategic Evaluation Makes a Difference

In these situations, organizations need to be pushed to look at their familiar situations in new, and even strategically frightening ways through a dynamic strategic evaluation. This can entail:

The irony is through challenging a “too smart” organization with an aggressive strategic evaluation, it will actually get smarter and savvier as it develops a relevant differentiation strategy for the future.

If your organization feels like it’s too smart for its own good and may be losing disruptive innovation opportunities as a result of a too conventional differentiation strategy, contact us.

At The Brainzooming Group, we’re experts at helping smart organizations develop the right marketing strategy based on a rigorous, yet brisk customer analysis and strategic evaluation to get smarter, better, and more successful – in a hurry. – Mike Brown

 

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

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

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