Strategic Thinking | The Brainzooming Group - Part 186 – page 186
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At the start of a recent conference call for an upcoming strategy planning project, it was clear I was expected to facilitate the discussion. That was my suspicion coming in, but with other responsibilities, there wasn’t a chance to prepare as much as I typically would. So after a brief introduction, all eyes and ears turned to me to start talking – gulp.

Here’s Your ChallengeWhat do you do when you’re not ready to speak or don’t know what to say?

Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” How about a middle ground? Next time you’re in a similar situation, think for a moment, open your mouth, and ASK a great question.

Doing this provides three clear, immediate strategic benefits:

  • You shift the focus from your lack of preparation and give the floor back to the other participants.
  • The other people feel better because they’re able to provide input.
  • By actively listening, you can pick out cues from their comments that can shape your next move – to talk, to change course, or to ask another question.

The strategic key is asking the right type of question.

Be ready by developing a quick list of 8 to 10 questions that you can rely upon with ease. Here are a few to get you started (along with when to use them):

  • Can you elaborate? (If someone has provided information, but you’re not clear what it means.)
  • How have you approached this before? (If people have previous experience they could share.)
  • What are your initial thoughts for how to approach it? (When participants have pre-conceived notions about what to do.)
  • Can you tell me more? (When someone has a wealth of information that hasn’t been shared yet.)
  • What’s most important for you to accomplish? (To understand the other parties’ motivations – and what matters in this situation.)

In this example, I chose the last question, allowing participants an opportunity to share their individual and collective objectives for the upcoming planning session. Their initial comments set up a follow-up question (What percent of the plan should be devoted to each of the 3 sections you’ve mentioned?), creating the opportunity to start capturing topic areas. A productive meeting was thus snatched from the jaws of unpreparedness with two great, simple questions.

So what questions will you be better prepared to ask next time this happens to you? – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.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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Doctors are trained in asking questions, making observations, and using tests to identify possible infirmities that patients are suffering. Their techniques can be adapted within the Change Your Character exercise to help find new ways to diagnose business issues also. Doctors’ approaches that can be used for your brainstorming include:

  • Figuring out who / how services will be paid for
  • Having you fill out paperwork on yourself
  • Asking how you’ve been feeling
  • Having someone do a quick vitals check before seeing you
  • Checking vital signs
  • Reviewing your previous treatment history
  • Following a standard diagnostic procedure
  • Prescribing a treatment
  • Referring you to a specialist
  • Scheduling a follow-up appointment

Remember, strive to identify three potential ways that each of bulleted points above can be generalized to address & resolve your situation. It’s easier than taking two (make that three) aspirins and calling me in the morning.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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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21

The new year is a time for reflecting on what’s really important. If I may get creative and turn that concept on its side a little, since articulating a new definition for “strategic thinking” (addressing things that matter with insight & innovation), I’ve been trying to get down on paper a list of strategic thinking questions whose answers would help shed light on, “What matters?”

What are great questions to best identify what’s strategic, i.e., what really matters in a particular business situation? This is a starting list of strategic thinking questions:

  • What does our brand stand for?
  • What do we most want to accomplish in the organization?
  • How would we describe our best, most valuable customers?
  • Who don’t we do business with?
  • Who do we win the most business from and why?
  • Who do we lose the most business to and why?
  • What are the biggest cost drivers in the organization?
  • What things would be most devastating (or most embarrassing) if our customers knew about them?
  • What’s the biggest unknown in our market?
  • What are the best opportunities available to us?
Feel free to start using strategic thinking questions from the list above. Feel even freer still to comment on other strategic planning questions you’ve used successfully to identify “what matters.” – 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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Two celebrities have become well-known for being able to reinvent themselves when they hit a financial or creative dead end –Donald Trump and Madonna. You can go to school on their rebranding techniques and apply them in business when you have a brand that needs to be refreshed. Here are approaches they’ve used successfully that you can apply in the Change Your Character exercise.

Donald Trump:

  • Host a TV show
  • Fix your financial situation
  • Put your name on something new
  • Do a BIG deal
  • Fire somebody
  • Start a new TV season
  • Pick a verbal fight with another celebrity to generate attention
  • Change out the important people in your life
  • Redevelop a prominent property

Madonna:

  • Change your look
  • Change your wardrobe
  • Do something controversial
  • Explore a new style of work / expression
  • Create news through your unusual lifestyle
  • Use multiple media to get your message across
  • Write a book
  • Incorporating new cultures or points of view
  • Adopt a child

So try these approaches as you brainstorm how to get your brand back in the news and to the top of the charts in customers’ eyes.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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.

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5

I’m a big believer that bold distinctions made between strategic and tactical people are nonsense. The contrasts are mutually perpetuated by “strategic thinking” people who want to seem “important” and by “tactical, action-oriented” people who don’t want to expend the mental energy (or give up the apparent decision making freedom) to do strategic thinking and connect their activities to an overarching business purpose.

For me, there’s a very fuzzy space between strategic thinking and tactical implementation. Strategy is the connecting principle that ties tactics together. Tactics are absolutely necessary to successfully carry out a strategy.

As a result, neither strategies nor tactics can be successful without the other, and business people can’t maximize their contributions & success by paying attention to only one of them.

Here’s Your Challenge– Do you view yourself (and the business world) as either strategic OR tactical? If so, abandon that view and focus on increasing your overall business contributions. Here are a few straight forward tactics you can use to increase your contribution to successful business strategy in very subtle ways:

  • Show up at a meeting with a proposed agenda, suggested topics, and/or relevant information. Often even the person calling a meeting isn’t properly prepared. There have been countless occasions where by showing up with a little pre-thought and something written out, a person not leading a meeting has inserted themselves to set the meeting’s (and the ultimate project’s) direction.
  • Offer to take and report out the notes. Somebody said that “history is written by the winners.” What better way to help solidify a winning business position than by offering upfront to write the meeting’s “history.” This provides the opportunity to shape the messaging and direction coming from the meeting, setting the stage for future steps.
  • Get to the whiteboard first. If you can’t write the history, at least do the reporting. Picking the right time to go to the whiteboard or the easel pad provides the opportunity to visually depict what the meeting looks like. Within the bounds of being an above-board, unbiased reporter, you can choose what goes up for display, how it’s worded, and begin inserting a specific point of view.
  • Volunteer to lead an analytical effort. This can be more challenging and more work, but taking the lead on identifying and delivering insights is an outstanding way to shape its progress and direction.
  • Volunteer to develop a draft hypotheses / business model. Potentially more involved, framing a starting hypothesis or model allows you to influence overall thinking on the effort.

Doing a great job on any of these options will start to make your co-workers view your business contributions in a new and different (and probably a more strategic) light. Just make sure that if you pick “getting to the whiteboard first,” you take a moment to select a dry-erase marker!

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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A great technique to generate new creative ideas is delegating your challenge to someone else…say, Mary Ann or Ginger or the Professor from “Gilligan’s Island.” Too good to be true? It’s not. Here’s how it works:

  • State the business challenge that you’re addressing – it could be an opportunity, a problem, a new process or approach, etc.
  • Pick who you want to have work on your situation. This could be a real person, a fictional or cartoon character, or even another business.
  • Once you’ve identified who you’ll put on the job, list 8 to 10 approaches that the person, character, or business uses to address opportunities or challenges.
  • Using each of the 8 to 10 approaches, apply them to your situation to generate at least 3 new creative ideas for solving it. The result should be at least 30 new ideas to consider for your situation. (For ways to prioritize, check out this earlier post on narrowing ideas.)

The reason that the seven castaways are such good people to delegate to is because they are so different (thus approaching challenges differently) and still relatively well-known as pop culture icons.

Typical approaches that surface for the castaways to address situations include:

  • Make something out of coconuts & bamboo (whatever is available)
  • Create a new invention
  • Perform an experiment
  • Plot an elaborate plan
  • Get somebody else to do your work for you
  • Play / act out a different character
  • Flirt with someone (use your talents to get your way)
  • Pay money to get what you want
  • Sleep with a Teddy Bear (do something to improve comfort)
  • Look out for the benefit of others

You can use this technique in many situations to help you generate new creative ideas from very different perspectives!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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.

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Auguste Escoffier, a nineteenth-century French food connoisseur, popularized the idea that something should be served between main courses in a formal meal to clear the palate, allowing the diner to fully enjoy the next course as if it were the first. Because of his efforts, lemon sorbet has become the popular means to cleanse palates.

A Creative Thinking Lemon Sorbet

The idea translates to creative thinking also. As many topics as we generally have thrown at us to process mentally, it becomes difficult to move between them with the expectation that you’ll start the next project with the same creative thinking freshness as the first.

Can you identify your “creative thinking” lemon sorbets – the activities or exercises you can use to clear your mind when shifting between creative (or not-so-creative efforts)?

They may be simple (going for a quick walk or taking a nap) or more challenging to accomplish (one of mine is riding roller coasters, which unfortunately happens infrequently). Make the effort to identify a repertoire of activities you can use to effectively clear your mind, refresh, and get ready for more productive creative thinking.

As for me, I’ll be having an icy Diet Dr. Pepper and a quick nap on the floor to clear my mind before starting on tomorrow’s Brainzooming blog post! – Mike Brown

 

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative 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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