Strategic Thinking | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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Chuck Dymer and I presented to a group of logistics managers in Chicago last week. The topic was how to handle uncertain times successfully.

Tomorrow, I’ll be closing the Nature Explore and The Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute with a comparable message. The conference theme is building resilience and joy in uncertain times. The audience for the presentation consists of educators, landscape designers, government officials, and others involved with creating outdoor classrooms for children. It’s all about getting kids outside to experience nature, interact, and learn. The closing presentation will be about staying strong as an idea magnet even you are uncertain of what is ahead.

Next month, Emma Alvarez Gibson and I will be delivering a couple of workshops for the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. The message will once again be similar: carrying out your mission when times are changing in ways you have not previously experienced.

Yes, dealing with uncertain times (while facing fewer or nonexistent resources) seems to be in the forefront for many different types of organizations these days.

25 Infinitely Renewable Things in Uncertain Times

One theme for the Leadership Institute presentation is finding the blue sky – the open opportunities – even amid what seems to be an onslaught of constraints and limitations. That took me to the idea of abundance thinking, one of the fundamental strategies of idea magnets. These creative leaders recognize constraints but turn their attention to the available resources that are plentiful and can always be grown.

Wanting to leave the Leadership Institute participants with a starting list of ideas, here are twenty-five things that are abundantly available – even in hard-nosed business settings.

  1. Affiliating with Others
  2. Asking Others for Help
  3. Asking Someone If You Can Help
  4. Caring for Others
  5. Cheering Each Other On
  6. Coming up with another idea
  7. Creativity
  8. Determination
  9. Doodling a Smiley Face or Heart
  10. Enthusiasm
  11. Focusing on Your Core Purpose
  12. Forgiveness
  13. Good Humor
  14. Good Intentions
  15. Hugs
  16. Humility
  17. Imagination
  18. Jumping for Joy
  19. Positive Thoughts
  20. Prayer
  21. Reaching Out to Others
  22. Remembering Successes You’ve Already Had
  23. Sharing Stories
  24. Smiles
  25. Trying One More Time

What else is abundantly available in your part of the world? If your team could use some ideas and motivation right now with handling uncertainty, we’d love to come spend time with you to share strategies that are working!  – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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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It is possible that great ideas are expressed very clearly and distinctly so that everyone understands them right away and sees the appropriate value they deliver and the impact they might create.

More often, however, it seems great ideas come along with a variety of other things that are not going to add tremendous value to creating great strategy. That’s when having the strategic thinking skills to extract the great ideas from everything else is so vital to them seeing the light of day and getting the consideration they deserve.

9 Strategic Thinking Skills to Create Clarity for Great Ideas

Thinking about some of the strategic thinking skills involved in that task, here is a handy checklist you can use with yourself and others to see how adept you (or they) are at surfacing great ideas. How good are you at…?

  1. Organizing ideas in a logical way
  2. Being able to organize ideas in multiple logical ways (and a few surprising ones, too)
  3. Removing things that don’t fit so that great ideas are more apparent
  4. Identifying what is important from among lots of details
  5. Finding common threads others will understand, even though they cannot originally identify the threads
  6. Focusing attention on the few things (whether results, ideas, costs, issues, etc.) that account for most of the overall impact
  7. Adding in overlooked things that fit with other ideas to make them all better
  8. Sorting out what matters from what gets attention
  9. Hearing the ideas people mean to say even if they don’t say those ideas exactly

Do you stand out at these strategic thinking skills? Or do you potentially squander lots of great ideas because they don’t get the attention they deserve?  – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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From experience, the worst time to decide on how to decide things is when you are ready to decide things.

When you are ready to a make decision, an entirely new set of issues emerges. People have already developed their vested interests in certain outcomes. They are either overly or underly-inclined to point out data gaps to try to push the group to choose a certain outcome.

If, however, you can figure out what will shape the decision before it happens, you have a fighting chance of making a solid business decision for an organization.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Answer Before Making a Decision

Here are five strategic thinking questions you should identify well before you are on the verge of making a decision:

  • Who owns making the decision?
  • Who will the decision impact?
  • Who should contribute to making the decision?
  • What criteria will we use to make the decision?
  • What levels or conditions across the criteria will signal making one decision or the other?

If you answer those strategic thinking questions early, your decision making will likely be more simple, clear, and streamlined. And all of that means you can fast forward more quickly from debating and deciding into implementation and results!

Fast Forward: Successfully Implementing Your Plan! 

In the FREE eBook, Fast Forward, we highlight ideas, tips, and checklists you can quickly use for implementation success:

  • 10 ways to simplify and strengthen the language you use to communicate strategic priorities
  • 9 ideas for introducing your strategic plan with style and impact to engage your organization
  • 4 keys for selecting the right collaborative leaders during implementation
  • 12 questions to better launch your successful strategy implementation process
  • 4 strategies to navigate typical execution challenges
  • Using mini-plans to increase implementation flexibility

If you’re on the hook to move your organization from strategy to implementation ASAP, Fast Forward is for you! Download it TODAY!
Download Fast Forward Today!

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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What can you expect from a strategic planning process?

That question was the topic of several recent conversations.

As I explained it, our objective when leading a strategic planning process is to make sure the result is an innovative, implementable strategy.

9 Things to Deliver in a Strategic Planning Process

That specific phrase (an innovative, implementable strategy) is very important to a strategic planning process. It creates a definition and set of expectations around what the process we’re facilitating needs to deliver.

With innovative, we look to deliver ideas that:

  • Are better than current strategies
  • Are differentiated relative to competitors
  • Create exceptional benefits and value for important audiences

In terms of implementable, the strategy needs to:

And if it’s a solid strategy, it:

These specifics help determine what we need to prioritize within any strategic planning process:

As you look ahead toward strategic planning, think about where you legitimately need to concentrate your efforts. Where do you need to focus to create an innovative, implementable strategy for your organization’s success? – Mike Brown

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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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I delivered a keynote on the importance of collaborative internal branding during the SMC3 2017 Connections conference.

The talk prompted several conversations about the distinctions between branding strategy and advertising. I surprised several attendees by discussing branding strategy as a fundamental element of business strategy for any organization.

When first visiting a branding agency years ago, I didn’t understand the distinction between what it and an advertising agency would do. They kept talking about the design of our facilities and employee behaviors, making me wonder why we were there. Those topics seemed far removed from what our marketing team could effectively improve and align in our company. My boss, the CMO, insisted we needed to take the lead on these important people and service elements of our operationally-driven business.

via Shutterstock

Over time, it became clear that we needed to lead the way because only the marketing team would approach these areas strategically. It was also clear that branding agency thought about them strategically while our advertising agency didn’t. That experience solidified for me why branding and advertising agencies were typically two different organizations.

3 Big Differences between Branding Strategy and Advertising

Thinking about the questions attendees asked after my talk and a career of working with some great branding people, here are several distinctions between branding strategy and advertising:

  • Branding relates to business strategy. Advertising relates to marketing strategy.
  • Branding determines the essentials of the customer experience and designs it. Advertising focuses on depicting the marketable aspects of the customer experience, communicating them to prospects and reinforcing them with current customers.
  • Branding incorporates communications plus people, product, and physical evidence. Advertising focuses on communications and promotional activities.

I could expand the comparisons, but the role branding plays in strategy, customer experience, and addressing a breadth of business variables sets up a solid distinction between branding strategy and advertising.  – Mike Brown

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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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I’ll admit it: my views on innovation strategy have been dramatically shaped by working in a Fortune 500 corporation. The size and scale of opportunities you pursue, even in a company that was not always all that innovative, oriented me to think a big team and significant dollars are vital for real innovation.

Given that, moving to an entrepreneurial environment in 2009 was new territory when it came to learning innovation strategy lessons.

Without a large team and no outside funding, our entrepreneurial innovation strategy involves imagining an idea, starting on it (while also trying to sell and operate the business), and accepting most things will never develop as quickly or completely as in a big corporation.

In the last twenty months, however, it feels more as if what we are doing is truly classically innovative. The thing is, what we’ve done HAS always been about innovating. Maybe it has just taken a few years to get to where some earlier innovations are successful and dependable. Now, we have a base from which to more aggressively implement our innovation strategy.

5 Innovation Strategy Lessons Learned as an Entrepreneur

Reviewing this most recent development phase for The Brainzooming Group, here are five innovation strategy lessons I’ve personally learned:

#1. Start down a path while working on redefining it

We haven’t wavered from the initial reason for starting The Brainzooming Group: to take our learnings on simplifying, collaboratively approaching, and speeding up strategic planning to smart organizations wanting to conduct business differently. We have extended our reach into industries, situations, and dimensions we hadn’t imagined. Even though we still only sell professional services, training workshops, and speaking, staying true to the original direction facilitated creating enough content to be able to now quickly move into other areas with tremendous ease and speed.

#2. Once there is an early positive indicator, go all out as fast as you can

Without content marketing, I would not have had the guts to become an entrepreneur. Cold calling wasn’t my strong suit. Sharing how to improve business strategies and processes was. The positive reaction to Brainzooming content on strategy, branding, and innovation even before the name Brainzooming existed revealed this opportunity. Even though we have enough content to slow our new content creation, we are now developing longer-form eBooks at an unprecedented rate for us in the past twenty months.

#3. Start more things than you can finish in the time you would like to finish them

At one point, I felt compelled to finish most things I started. Now, when it comes to generating new ideas and approaches, I am quite comfortable doing something 25% of the way if that portion can yield bits and pieces that fit into something else that will be more complete. Accepting this is key to launching as many initiatives as we need to launch. I’ve found that if we are strategic, the pieces fit or make sense later at a high rate.

#4. If someone has an intriguing idea, look for how to spin it

We’re developing an idea right now for a branding and social content-related offering. It targets market segments we don’t currently serve with a delivery model we don’t currently use. A year ago, we had no activities going in this direction. The original idea came during a visit to Mess Wright in Dallas. Mess shared how she was using Brainzooming tools in an entrepreneurial setting. A couple of twists and turns later, and we have an entirely new offering that I’m crunching to get going during 2017 (2018 at the latest).

#5. You can only starve yourself from outside interests for so long (but I’m not sure how long that is yet)

Near the start of 2016, major pieces were coming into place to grow The Brainzooming Group more aggressively. Several, however, didn’t pan out when expected. In the interim, I decided to kill myself to make as much activity as possible happen as fast as I could. That means many sacrifices. There hasn’t been much sleep or fun outside of business since then. We’re progressing on other pieces we need (and got a headwind from other unexpected events), but the period of killing myself hasn’t ended. My energy has faltered at times. Through God’s grace, I think we’ll make it through to the other side of this intense period.

The Big Innovation Strategy Lesson

So, yeah, I must admit not every innovation strategy takes a big team and lots of dollars. In the startup world, innovation CAN be about determination, pushing ahead whenever and however you are able, and staying determined even when you would rather sleep. – Mike Brown

Conquer Fears of Business Innovation!

FREE Download: “7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears”

3d-Cover-Innovation-FearsWhether spoken or unspoken, organizations can send strong messages saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t screw around with it” in a variety of ways. Such messages make it clear that good things do not await those pushing for innovation involving any significant level of risk.

This free Brainzooming innovation eBook identifies seven typical business innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies. We tackle:

  • Whether facts or emotional appeals are ideal to challenge fear of innovation-driven change
  • When it is smart to call attention to even bigger fears to motivate progress
  • Situations where your best strategy is taking business innovation underground

Download your FREE copy of 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears today!

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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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One of our clients recently conducted their own internal interviews to get a sense of what their employees thought about their current situation, future opportunities, and persistent challenges as an input into the strategic planning process. During the interviews, a standard theme from the participants was to share their comments EXACTLY as they stated them. Our client made the commitment to do so.

While that commitment translated into capturing and typing up exacting notes with their specific words, conveying what participants want to communicate during the strategic planning process is a little more complicated than that.

6 Keys for Conveying What Participants Want to Communicate

via ShutterStock

When it comes to conveying exactly what participants wants to communicate, there are multiple steps involved. These are some of the things we suggested to honor the team’s request for faithfully reporting their comments:

  1. Ask questions that allow individuals to express their own thinking instead of having to conform their language to how the strategic planner describes things.
  2. Make a concerted effort to capture the exact language participants used if they are not directly capturing their own language.
  3. If there is a gap between what they say and what they mean, don’t hesitate to fill in the white space so the final reporting is as representative as possible of their big messages.
  4. Do not hesitate to insert your own comments to focus reader attention on the most important messages.
  5. Develop a vocabulary list of common language the organization uses, and default to words and phrases from the list as you recap the interviews and work on subsequent deliverables.
  6. Identify themes among individual interviews and responses, featuring the most descriptive language people used to represent the significant issues the organization faces.

As with a lot of things in business and life, being faithful to what participants want to communicate during a strategic planning process can involve extra steps to adjust things and make sure it happens. We’ve taken these types of steps for years and have had clients consistently say, “That’s exactly what we meant, except you said it even better!” – 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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