6

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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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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12

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.

Idea-Magnet-Ad

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)

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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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