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Productive strategic thinking exercises are at the heart of The Brainzooming Group methodology. Great brainstorming and strategic planning questions encourage and allow people to talk about what they know including factual information, personal perspectives, and their views of the future.

The Value of Strategic Thinking Exercises

I tell people who ask about how we developed The Brainzooming Group methodology that a big motivator was business people I worked with who didn’t know how to fill out strategic planning templates and worksheets.

They did, however, know a lot about the businesses, customers, and markets they served. We found we could ask them strategic planning questions and brainstorming questions to capture information to create strategic plans.

Since I could write the plan, knowing strategic planning questions to ask (within a fun, stimulating environment to answer them) was key to developing creative, quickly-prepared plans infused with strategic thinking.

And when you combine “creative,” “strategic thinking,” and “quickly-prepared,” you get Brainzooming!

Here is a sampling of more than 200 brainstorming questions and strategic planning questions that are part of the strategic thinking exercises we use with The Brainzooming Group. Yes, more than two hundred questions! Who could ask for more?

 

More than 200 Strategic Planning Questions for Strong Strategic Thinking

Creating Productive Questions

Strategic Thinking Questions for Developing Overall Strategy

Developing a Strategic Vision

Digital and Social Media Exploration

Creative Naming Questions

Innovation-Oriented Questions

Brainzooming-Before-After

Identifying Strategies and Assumptions

Extreme Creativity Questions

Strategic Marketing Questions

Sales and Business Development Questions

Questions to Perform More Effective Recaps

There you go with more than 200 strategic planning questions. Do you have any questions? Let us know! – Mike Brown

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake 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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3

If you are considering launching a strategic planning process, either for your organization overall or for a specific part of the business, you have obviously done some thinking about it to get to this decision point.

8 Questions to Ask Before a Strategic Planning Process

Siimulated-Brainzooming

Simulated Image of a Brainzooming

Before taking your first steps to either implement the strategic planning process yourself or engage an outside party to lead you through the process, here are eight questions to ask.

Maybe you have already addressed some of these questions about your strategic planning process, but my guess is you likely have not tackled all of them:

  • What benefits should we get organizationally from the PROCESS of strategic planning?
  • Have previous strategic plans sat on the shelf or have we implemented them?
  • Is there a type of strategic planning output that is not as likely to sit on the shelf?
  • How many and what types of people should be involved?
  • Should the strategic planning experience be serious, stimulating, exciting, rewarding, or fun . . . or is there another descriptor that is more appropriate?
  • How fresh and reliable is our strategic foundation as we get ready to launch the strategic planning process?
  • How big a change are we looking for in the new strategic plan – is it minor or are we taking a big swing at our future direction?
  • How smart are we about what we do and our customers, markets, competitors, and all the other factors in our business environment?

Granted, these questions are shaped heavily by the very different approach The Brainzooming group takes to making sure a strategic plan broadly involves an organization and provides a dynamic, motivating, and creative experience for everyone involved.

Looking for Answers to these Strategy Questions?

However, based on talking with a variety of clients and potential clients, we approach strategic planning to create a very different experience than other outside strategists. So if you’d like help working through these questions and what they could mean for growing your organization and your people, give us a call (816-509-5320). – 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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Yesterday’s post explored sixteen signals to identify when strategizing becomes procrastination, stopping you from moving forward with implementation. At the heart of many of the sixteen signals is apprehension with decision making for various reasons.

In light of the challenges we all (okay, maybe most of us) face at times with making decisions on a timely basis, here is a recap list of Brainzooming articles on making successful decisions.

Decision Making Techniques

1. Don’t Overthink It? 5 Key Questions for Quick Decisions

Here are five ways to constrain thinking when it’s too easy to take more time to make decisions. Chopping off some available time, resources, and possibilities can get you to a decision much faster.

2. Making Decision Making Easier – She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

One factor that can slow decision making speed is too many available choices. Here is a low-tech, very direct way to narrow your decision options and move directly toward decision making.

3. Strategic Thinking Exercise – Simply Making Big Decisions

Your approach for making big decisions doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It can be as simple as listing your criteria and asking yes or no questions about the options you’re considering.

4. Black and White Decision Making? Today, Change to Grey (and Vice Versa)

There are benefits to consciously changing your typical decision making style, even if temporarily.

5. Project Management – 15 Techniques When Time Is Running Down

I enjoy events because they have a built-in deadline: at some point, the event will start, and all decisions are either made or you’ve lost the chance to tinker any longer. When looking at all deadlines as “events,” these techniques help focus and move forward when time is running down.

Decision Making with Teams

6. Level 5 Decisions – Decision Making without Your Influence

Maybe part of your decision making challenge is you are trying to make too many decisions yourself. This helpful strategic thinking approach helps move decisions away from you toward your team so everyone can be more effective.

7. Striving for Simple Revolutionary Ideas

This prioritization and decision making approach not only helps identify winning ideas, it takes best advantage of using both individuals and groups working through a group decision making process efficiently.

Prioritization

8. Built for Discomfort – An Alternative Prioritization Strategy for Innovation

If the easy decision is always the decision that gets made, this prioritization strategy will help force a group to more strongly consider uncomfortable ideas that can be more challenging but also more beneficial.

9. Prioritizing Things Others Are Depending Upon

When you’re in a team situation, delaying a decision or action can really screw things up for the next person in the process. This alternative prioritization approach places a premium on taking actions that set the next person up for success.

Dealing with Varied Decision Making Situations

10. Making a Decision – 7 Situations Begging for Quick Decisions

It can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and turn small decisions into protracted ones. This guide adds some perspective to seven common decision making situations that could be quick decisions once you strip away everything that’s surrounding them.

11. Market Research – 5 Ways to Not Screw Up Focus Group Decision Making

As a market researcher, I’m quick to support the idea of getting market input to help make better decisions. If you misuse market research as a way to tap market input, however, you can make the situation worse. Here’s how to not screw up focus groups if you’re using them.

12. Is Your Brand Headed for Trouble? 5 Strategic Warning Signs

While decision making isn’t the central focus of this article, poor decision making is at the  heart of these strategic warning signs that suggest a brand is heading for trouble, if it’s not already present and accounted for in Troubleville. – 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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1

Most of the time the Brainzooming blog shares strategy, innovation, and creativity ideas while consciously trying not to tout what we do at The Brainzooming Group. Our hope is by sharing intriguing and insightful content on strategy, innovation, and creativity, you will want to explore more deeply how The Brainzooming Group can improve your organization’s performance. Suffice it to say, we do not toot our own horn too much. (Did you like the way I got both “tout” and “toot” into the same paragraph? That will make the SEO grading apps crazy.)

Why Change Is Hard and 3 Ideas for Making Change Easy

Recently I was reading (okay, listening) to, Switch (affiliate link), the book on change by Chip and Dan Heath. I was struck by how The Brainzooming Group successfully addresses what Chip and Dan Heath identify as three of the main points from Switch addressing why change is hard:

Why Change Is Hard #1: Organizations resist planning for change because it is too complex or too hard

Group-Strategic-ConnectionOur Approach for Making Change Easy: At The Brainzooming Group, we refer to this challenge of planning for change as the “can’t get over the hump” problem. We see it repeatedly. Smart organizations with solid people get only so far with developing implementing strategy, but cannot get any further.  Sometimes the answer is strategic thinking tools; sometimes it is resources; sometimes it is strategic focus.

In the Brainzooming process, we analyze what the sticking point is and apply the correct “lubricant” to move the process forward. When you have built up the arsenal of strategic thinking tools and successful creativity approaches we have over the years, finding the answer to move a strategy toward implementation is quick.

Why Change Is Hard #2: People have a fear of failure, so they won’t even try to think about what should be changed, much less make the effort to change it

Our Approach for Making Change Easy: We account for the probability of failure as we design our strategy thinking process. As a result, we inoculate you against being afraid of change. The Brainzooming Group helps you generate a significant number of ideas and concepts as we temper the natural inclination to censor or needlessly debate whether ideas or concepts are good during the early stages of strategic thinking.

We don’t leave you with a pile of uncategorized and unusable ideas, though. We have tested strategic thinking tools to help organize, categorize, and evaluate the new you generate. Knowing the chaff is going to be thrown away helps people not be afraid to generate the kernels of wheat (or nuggets of gold) that lead to successful change.

Why Change Is Hard #3: There is too little attention paid to building upon success and too much attention placed on solving problems

Our Approach for Making Change Easy: The Brainzooming process helps you solve problems. Just as important though, we also help organizations better recognize what they are doing right and provide them the structure and options for building upon that success.

Would You Like to Make Change Easy? At Least Easier than It Has Been?

Thank for indulging this exploration on how the Brainzooming process accomplishes relative to making change easy. We’d love to talk with you about the opportunities and issues in your organization where you are finding change is hard. We’ll return tomorrow to our usual focus on less self-referential issues of strategy, innovation and creativity. Today though, I wanted to point out specific ways we help smart organization make successful change easy. – 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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We don’t frequently report new product case studies on the Brainzooming blog. One reason is we don’t cover our own client innovation work because it’s almost always confidential.

Another reason?

Commenting on stories about new product development innovations as reported in magazines is too speculative. Having been involved with public relations spin for Fortune 500 level companies, by the time you read a major story in the press, it may have little resemblance to what actually happened to innovate the new product.

Instead, the case study-oriented stories we cover tend to focus more on a strategic thinking question we use frequently: What brainstorming questions or creative thinking exercise would have generated this innovation?

Even if the brainstorming questions or creative thinking path we hypothesize isn’t what the brand used to hatch its innovation, it helps us continually develop new strategic thinking exercises or refresh familiar brainstorming questions we use with clients of The Brainzooming Group to generate ideas.

Tostabags – Making “Cooking” a Grilled Cheese Sandwich Easier

One recent product that was new to me, however, screamed for a blog post on brainstorming questions.

Grilled-Cheese-EasyTostabags (affiliate link) literally jumped off the shelf during a Saturday morning grocery store shopping trip. With Lent approaching and me doing more of my own food preparation (notice I didn’t say “cooking”) recently, the promise of an easy grilled cheese sandwich was top of mind!

As Facebook friends pointed out, it’s not like making a grilled cheese is that hard. But when your main food prep motivations are using as few dishes or utensils as possible and trying to maximize the microwave oven’s role, traditional grilled cheese preparation is a 3-item chore (stove, frying pan, and spatula).Talk about complicated!

The clear benefit of Tostabags, developed by Guy Unwin of the UK’s Planit Products, was not lost on me. This was especially true since the price tag covered the brand name, making the benefit more clear than the brand name! The ability to take two pieces of bread, put a piece of cheese between them, slip it into Tostabags, and slide the whole deal into a toaster? That’s much easier, and what’s even better, having tried one out, Tostabags work. The grilled cheese sandwich was great!

Brainstorming Questions that Could Lead to Tostabags

Not knowing how Guy Unwin came up with the Tostabags idea, you can imagine the idea flowing very naturally from an exercise learned from Chuck Dymer called Trait Transformation (it also goes by the name SCAMPER).

The basis of Trait Transformation is initially identifying:

  • An innovation objective, i.e., innovating new products to make cooking easier
  • Characteristics related to the innovation objective

In the case of coming up with the idea for Tostabags, the characteristics might have been kitchen items associated with cooking (i.e., stove, microwave, utensils, toaster, etc.) or common prepared foods (i.e., sandwiches, scrambled eggs, pizza).

With the characteristics (or “traits”) identified, they are modified through “transformers” to deliberately change how they factor into the innovation objective. Typical transformers include:

  • Simpler
  • More Complicated
  • Bigger
  • Smaller
  • Easier
  • More Customized
  • More Complex

Using a Trait Transformation approach, you can clearly see the combo question: How could we make preparing a grilled cheese sandwich easier?

Answer: Pop it into a bag in the toaster!

Try Them Both – Trait Transformation and Tostabags

If it’s not apparent already, I’m a longtime fan of Trait Transformation and a recent fan of Tostabags. Try Trait Transformation out when you need new innovation ideas that vary what’s already out there. And while you’re busy innovating, keep yourself energized eating an EASY grilled cheese sandwich with Tostabags!  – 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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Following up Woody Bendle’s innovation rant on  “best practices,” try this alternative approach: instead of cataloging industry best practices in search of new, innovative ideas, look at how another organization with a comparable situation outside your industry would tackle what you’re trying to improve.

We call this Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise, “What’s It Like?”

Strategy Planning with What’s It Like?

Hospital-Home-DepotI was speaking to someone who worked at a hospital during a graduate school class where I was presenting. She bemoaned a recent strategy planning session at her hospital. She said it was clear the doctors didn’t want to be there, the staff was bored, and the strategy planning session ended with no new future-looking ideas surfacing.

To give her a sense of how the “What’s It Like” strategic thinking exercise might have completely changed the dynamics of the hospital’s strategy planning session, I asked her to describe the hospital situation. We generalized the five characteristics she named, describing the hospital as focused on:

  • Fixing things
  • Taking care of customers
  • Employing people
  • Providing opportunities for learning
  • Making money

Reviewing the list for a comparable organization, we decided all five of the characteristics matched The Home Depot.

With the new perspective The Home Depot supplied, we started brainstorming. Ideas began flowing, including the idea of the hospital offering do-it-yourself surgery. While she scoffed at the idea, I pointed out people twenty years earlier would have said no patient would ever perform medical tests. Now, however, think about how many personal medical tests line the shelves at drugstores. Quite frankly, I can see some version of do-it-yourself surgery (assisted with robotics) becoming common within twenty years, even though it was so future-looking as to be laughable within the past few years.

New, Innovative Ideas from Outside Your Industry

What’s It Like is as simple a strategic thinking exercise to use as the hospital vs. The Home Depot brainstorming example demonstrates:

  • Pick your business opportunity or challenge
  • List a variety of characteristics of your business opportunity or challenge, potentially generalizing the characteristics
  • Select an organization facing a comparable situation
  • Brainstorm how the other organization, given its different view of your organization’s situation, would approach things

With What’s It Like, you get away from the idea of industry best practices, and allow yourself to think of completely new, innovative ideas for your organization no one in your industry is practicing! – 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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Final-ReportPreparing the final report for a long-term client engagement, I revisited our project management techniques relative to what goes into the document. Certainly The Brainzooming Group has nuances regarding how we conduct and create the final report for a strategy session we facilitate. Our new and reconfirmed project management techniques for closing out big projects, however, will be valuable to you when you are on the hook to prepare a final report of your own.

5 Final Report Success Tips

1. A final report is about the valuable output, not all the inputs

The important part of a final report is the set of recommendations from the project effort. While individual ideas generated along the way may have been interesting, their value as standalone ideas is secondary if they were not incorporated into the recommendations. While this is not surprising, there is still a part of me that struggles with not including all the ideas we had along the way into the final report for whatever value they may have in the future. Slowly, however, I am getting over this.

2. Do not waste too much time working out of sequence on the final report

Preparing the final report of a project that is complex will not necessarily happen in sequential order. If you are stuck trying to work on the beginning of the report, your inclination may be to start skipping around between sections to make at least some forward progress. As a project management technique, that is worth a try, but resist the inclination to skip around too much. Instead, settle on the section you think you have the best chance of advancing and focus on pushing that section of the final report forward for an extended time. Doing this lets you build momentum in a way that skipping around will not.

3. Print the final report draft and spread it out

When you have a big final report document underway, it is possible you will only be able to go so far organizing it onscreen. This is especially true if you need to make significant changes to move the final report of the project toward completion. If you find yourself staring at the screen for more than ten minutes unable to make a move to rearrange it, print the document (or at least a section of it) and use a paper copy you can spread out, reorder, and discover a better way to organize it.

4. Some final report sections may not fit and aren’t worth any more time

If a project is strategic, creative, and/or developmental in nature, by the time you get close to completion, you may have sections of the final report in both varying stages of completion and applicability. Some sections may seem less applicable the further along you get in preparing the report. Do not be reluctant to yank those sections from the final report if you cannot reasonably fix or complete them efficiently or on a timely basis.

5. Finishing can involve taking things away, not doing more

Looking at this project at one point, my comment was, “It’s too much and too little at the same time.” Sounds like Goldilocks when you read it here. The point is for as much as completing the final report of a project “seems” to be about adding more things, if you’re getting lost in how to complete it, smartly removing things may be the fastest way to get a project done.

What project management techniques help you finish the final report of a project?

We have many readers who have project management responsibilities, so what works for you in completing a significant final report document? Or what have you tried and found to not work – even though you would think it would? Getting projects closed out is a valuable skill, so we’d appreciate hearing your successes. – Mike Brown

 

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Does your organization have good ideas, but lacks the wherewithal to bring them to reality? The Brainzooming Group and our collaborative, implementation-oriented project management techniques will quickly move you toward success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 for a free consultation on how to get started.

 

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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