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Suppose you’re on the hook to create a vision statement for a new organizational initiative. This seems like an assignment that is simple, complex, and fraught with potential missteps – all at the same time.

That’s especially true if the organization has already launched an initiative before recognizing the need for an over-arching vision statement.

When that happens, what visioning exercises make sense? How do you develop a vision statement when it is trying to catch up to an initiative that is already underway.

4 Visioning Exercises to Rework a Faulty Vision Statement

Clouds-Vision

Your strategy for selecting visioning exercises depends, in part, on what type of direction has been already communicated about the initiative. Here’s our quick advice on potential first steps for visioning exercises based on various starting points:

1. An initiative already has a slogan or catchphrase, but little else behind it

This describes a situation where a senior leader has coined a phrase or been mentioning a favorite new concept. This can lead to confusion and consternation in the organization as everyone tries to interpret what the senior leader means.

Visioning Exercise Approach: In these instances, extract significant words from the slogan and work on defining what each of them could mean in describing the initiative’s vision. Try to imagine several possibilities for each of these words. Using this approach, you’ll create a menu of strategic possibilities which you can mix, match, combine, and simplify to state a more defined vision statement.

2. There is already something resembling a vision statement, but it’s too generic

We’ve all seen a jargon-filled statement that seems as if it were spewed fresh from an all-purpose business jargon generator. It may seem sound impressive initially, but no one has any idea what it really means for the organization that’s touting it as a vision statement.

Visioning Exercise Approach: Your first step is to pull an existing statement as close to the organization’s real world as possible. If took out all the jargon, is there anything left in the statement? Suppose average employees were saying this (and trying to remember it); how would they be describing it in real, understandable words? Are there words used in the statement that could be easily translated or modified to link to strategic foundations the organization already has in place?

3. A current big statement focuses completely on aspiration with no ideas for implementation

This type of statement sounds like it came from the organization saying it, yet it seems so audacious and far off, it’s difficult to know what the organization should be doing to turn it into reality.

Visioning Exercise Approach: When you need to translate organizational aspirations into concrete actions, start asking outcomes-oriented questions. How will we know when we reach this vision? What will have had to happen to help us get there? What would be the potential first steps to reaching the desired outcome?

4. There isn’t anything close enough to resembling a vision statement

Visioning Exercise Approach: In this case, start asking questions about aspirations, emotional words that describe a hopeful future, and possibilities customers would like the brand to deliver. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-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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1

If possible, I engage the audience near the start of a presentation by asking their expectations for our time together. Beyond pre-planning with an event organizer, letting audience members voice their content preferences (and then trying to cover the strategic thinking exercises that deliver on their expectations) gives them a stake in the presentation.

Asking the question at a recent strategic thinking workshop, one participant said he expected to hear “empirical evidence on how the brain works.” I wrote down his expectation, turned to him, and said, “You may be the person who will leave here today VERY disappointed.” We confirmed this possibility moments later when he also said he expected to learn what the future held after the 2016 election. Unfortunately, that was not on the list of things I could answer either. It did, however, prompt me to unhide several slides covering our Black Swan strategic thinking exercise.

What Works with Your Brain?

Relative to the request for brain research factoids, he did hit a weak spot in my worldview.

Brainzooming-Simulation

While empirical research is interesting, we are focused on creating tools and processes that deliver results based on workplace experience. While I can’t say exactly how someone’s brain waves behave when you ask them to develop a smart organizational and market strategy, we have hundreds of experiences demonstrating how specific strategic thinking exercises, asked in a particular order, and visualized in a certain way, work compared to other options we might use.

We also continually experiment to see if new possibilities will work better than what we have been doing previously. Sometimes we create those variations ourselves. Often, the variations originate in client requests and constraints based on their organizational realities. In other cases, we go out of our way to try what we do in new settings with new types of participants. This further expands our understanding of how to help small and large groups work together more effectively and successfully.

If you are deep into brain performance research or have a favorite article summarizing how the brain functions when thinking about business and market strategy, send me your links. Just yesterday, Tanner Christensen shared this brain and creative thinking skills link on Twitter, which led to this one, and this one. We will incorporate what we can glean from this material along with all our experience and experiments to shape future Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises.

Plus, if I run into my workshop friend again, I will be ready to meet his expectations for creative thinking skills documentation!  Mike Brown

Need help boosting your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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 were several searches on the Brainzooming website the other day for “strategic planning session for (a) company that is headed for trouble.” From the quick glance I took, I am not sure if they were from the same person or even the same company.

This strategic planning session search, however, got me wondering: What would I grab from the Brainzooming website as a starting set of strategic thinking exercises, questions, and tools to use for strategy planning if a company were headed for big trouble?

Traffic-Circle

While The Brainzooming Group generally works with clients that are in strong current positions, but perhaps sensing some early strategic weakness, we developed many early Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises while in various turnaround situations in the Fortune 500 world.

As expected, we have created an array of content directed toward a strategic planning session for a company headed for trouble.

Always eager to turn a fruitful search on the Brainzooming blog into a compilation post, here are fifteen articles full of strategic thinking exercises you should consider if your company is headed for big trouble!

Evaluating Warning Signals and Strategic Options

Strategic Problem Solving

Strategic Implementation

Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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

It used to be when a lot of us were kids that soap could just show and be soap, and everybody was happy.

Soap was in a bar, and you used it (if you were particularly hygienic) or were MADE to use it (if you weren’t particularly hygienic) to wash your hands and your body.

Times have changed.

Now soap shows up and has to do lots of things. What used to be “soap” now has to be a “Foaming Antimicrobial Handwash with Moisturizers” if it expects to get the job done.

The_New-Soap

That is a big career change strategy for soap.

The thing is, it’s the same career change strategy a lot of more experienced people need to make, too.

It used to be you could show up and do one simple thing . . . and that was enough.

Those days are gone, though.

It doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been or how much experience you have at that one simple thing.

One simple thing isn’t cutting it anymore.

You have to figure out all the other things you can lay claim to in your job and your career. You have to figure out what YOUR version of “Foaming Antimicrobial Handwash with Moisturizers” is going to be.

It may take going to school on people half your age to see what they’re bringing to the workplace now in the way of talents and skills. Then you have to go out and hone what you do to be just as good as they are at all those weird sounding new things.

Because when you couple all those weird sounding new things with all your experience AND an openness to change . . . THEN you have a career change strategy.

Get going! – Mike Brown

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic thinking and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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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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1

We’ve written about various brainstorming methods, including brainstorming math before.

As we use the term, “brainstorming math” means taking advantage of the number of people involved in creative thinking, how many people can participate simultaneously, the time available, and the number of ideas various brainstorming methods are likely to yield to gauge how much creative thinking work you can accomplish.

What’s great about brainstorming math is you can not only use it to determine how many ideas will likely to emerge from creative thinking exercises. You can also use it to identify ways to make up time when a creative thinking session falls behind schedule.

Using Brainstorming Math to Save Time

At a customer forum we designed and facilitated for a business-to-business client, we emphasized creating an educational and networking environment for the company’s customers. We also employed various creative thinking exercises throughout the day. Because of waiting for some delayed attendees, we started more than 15 minutes late. During the morning, some segments lasted longer than expected. To adjust our plan for the afternoon, I used brainstorming math as a way to save twenty minutes while still getting everything done we had planned.

Brainstorming-Group-L

Since participants wanted to learn about and from each other, there was an opportunity to have MORE people contributing ideas. We combined two exercises into one (2x faster), creating combo creative thinking exercise where three small groups worked simultaneously (3x more work getting done). To increase the networking impact, participants rotated among groups to increase the interaction potential. As a result, we completed all the creative thinking exercises we expected to complete and caught up all the time by mid-afternoon.

If you’re facilitating group creative thinking exercises, always keep brainstorming math top of mind. Use it correctly, and you can develop more ideas in less time or the same number of ideas in much less time than you originally planned.

No matter how you cut it, brainstorming math is a great way to save time!  Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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

How “wild and crazy” should you be in using creative thinking exercises? And do you need to be more or less wild and crazy in teaching creative thinking to a group?

The short answer is, “It depends.”

Orange-Squeeze-Toy

Creative Thinking Exercises without Wild and Crazy

Sometimes, the right answer is not being very wild and crazy at all – not even one little bit.

At least that was the answer during one strategic planning session we were leading back in the B2B, Fortune 500 transportation and logistics days. While onsite with one of our subsidiaries, a Senior VP called me over to talk with the subsidiary’s president before we started working on the annual plan. He plainly and sternly said, “I don’t want any funny business.” I assured him our approach was to “work,” but at some point, there might be a little funny business. Since we needed his agreement to work with his team, we didn’t put out any toys. We started by facilitating a relatively staid strategic planning development process. No toys, few jokes, and a clear focus on being all business instead of wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

As the group relaxed during the day, however, we put out a few squeeze balls. They soon started flinging them at one another.  We introduced the “What’s It Like” creative thinking exercise to help them see how their trucking brand was JUST LIKE Ritz-Carlton. Most importantly, at the day’s end, the president said it was “good” and invited us back the next year.

Net result? We were very successful with hardly any wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

Our Most Wild and Crazy Creative Thinking Exercise

Contrast that with a recent “Doing New with Less” workshop in the heavily regulated financial services industry. One might expect it to be completely serious without any extreme creativity.

It was, but only partially.

We didn’t put out toys at the half-day workshop’s start. There were no funny slides or typical sight gags to begin. By the end of the workshop, however, we dove headlong into the “Shrimp” creative thinking exercise.

When done well, Shrimp is one of our most outrageous, wild and crazy creative thinking exercises. It pushes participants to initially generate trouble-inducing, extreme creativity ideas that we then scale back to reality.

And the financial services marketers embraced their extreme creativity.

Among the trouble-inducing ideas they imagined initially were psychic economists, Chippendale dancers delivering financial reports, a high school musical to communicate annual performance to individual investors, and giving people scratch cards to discover how lucky they’d be in securing an interest rate.

They turned these wild ideas into a new positioning for their chief economist, new ways to deliver financial updates to clients via a group event, and a simple decision tree to identify interest rate categories.

All this from a wild and crazy creative thinking exercise we rarely teach in workshops because groups aren’t THAT ready for extreme creativity.

Extreme Creativity All Depends

The important thing to remember is, however, wild and crazy is simply an ingredient in creative thinking, NOT its sole purpose. You can call us crazy, but that is why we think “how wild and crazy to be” depends completely on the group, the situations, and what our client wants to achieve. Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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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Ten years ago today, I led our internal communications team in a variety of creative thinking exercises to develop ideas for our upcoming two-thousand person employee and customer Transformation conference that January in Las Vegas.

The session had both high and lows, as I recall.

Creative-Group

Creative Thinking Exercises – Ten Valuable Lessons

I recently found ten lessons I wrote down at the Transformation Conference creative session’s conclusion that pertain to group facilitation.

Beyond the Transformation conference ideas the group identified, the session was important since it:

Some group facilitation lessons were very specific to the session (including giving Becky’s real name), so they are generalized here.

In their more general format, they are valuable lessons for anyone trying to facilitate a diverse and unruly group of people through creative thinking exercises!

  1. Take a minute at the start and explain to people why we’d do something where you don’t have to consider logistical or budgetary reality when saying ideas (this environment is what made Becky shut down).
  2. Tell people it’s okay that they haven’t experienced the thing that you’re innovating. It actually makes them strong innovators because they’re looking at it with completely fresh eyes.
  3. At a minimum, identify someone to help when facilitating a session by yourself. They are invaluable for gathering ideas and moving things around in the room when you are facilitating.
  4. Make sure if you have people select good ideas that you don’t fail to get them categorized as “better” ideas. If not, ideas people picked out as “special” might be merged back in with all the other ideas (and you lose the valuable input on stronger ideas).
  5. Trait Transformation is a great group exercise and a wonderful place to start a session. It really works to think through which cells you’ll likely go to ahead of time; it makes the exercise flow better.
  6. Set an expectation on the number of ideas generated for each of the creative thinking exercises. It gets people to generate more ideas and puts more pressure on them to just say ideas and not assess them.
  7. Watch for people who are bogging down groups and move them into other groups.
  8. If you have enough naysayers for a small group, put them all together and don’t let them mess up anyone else’s creative experience.
  9. Make sure opportunities are stated broadly enough to yield ideas. If you are too specific about an opportunity’s description, you wind up limiting ideas.
  10. Get more creative thinking exercises in place to be ready for new types of opportunities you may encounter.

It’s amazing to me to read through this list of ten lessons in group facilitation. While I remember certain aspects of the session, these lessons make it clear how pivotal these few hours were in shaping how we still work with creative thinking exercises ten years later! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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