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I’ve mentioned my surprise upon realizing strategic planning techniques The Brainzooming Group uses seem to have emerged from Bible passages. Granted, I’ve been to many masses during the last seventeen years. It always startles me, however, when a new example appears.

This happened yesterday at mass with a Bible reading I suspect isn’t all that familiar.

On the 5th Monday of the Lenten season every year, the first Bible reading at mass is from the book of the prophet Daniel. The reading is the story of Susanna, falsely accused of adultery by two elders, and sentenced to death. Daniel, however, sees that an injustice is about to occur and intervenes on Susanna’s behalf to save her.

Susanna and the Elders

You’re probably asking how this story has anything to do with Brainzooming strategic planning techniques?

For whatever reason, I’ve found myself explaining several times in the last few days how we use a wide variety of strategic planning techniques to gather participant input into strategies.

Sometimes the best strategic thinking approach involves a large, in-person group. Often, smaller groups are better because more people will be actively generating ideas. In other cases, it’s vital to ask questions one-on-one, whether via a personal interview or a survey. We go the one-on-one route for various reasons. These include situations where we’re seeking factual information or the answer may vary based on who is in the room.

Lo and behold, the Susanna and the elders account from Daniel (Chapter 13) directly relates to one of our strategic planning techniques for when to ask questions one-on-one.

Daniel suspected the two elders were lying about seeing Susanna commit adultery. He asked that they be separated and each questioned on the same point of factual information: Under what type of tree did you see Susanna commit the act of adultery you allege?

Sure enough, when the two elders were together, their stories matched. When they were separated and asked about this point of information, they each blurted out a different type of tree. This discrepancy freed Susanna and the elders incurred the punishment (i.e., death) they tried to press upon Susanna.

While our experiences with The Brainzooming Group prove out why it makes sense to ask questions of individuals in these two situations (when facts are involved and when the answer may change in a group setting), it’s always reassuring when the Bible reconfirms our strategic thinking techniques! – Mike Brown

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Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!

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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How about a video blog for a change?

We’ve toyed with featuring more video blogs and finally decided to pursue the idea. While this format (an informal video while driving) may not be the one we continue using, it made sense for this video on strategic relationships and taking your hands off the wheel.

The topic of taking your hands off the wheel when working in strategic relationships with smart outside service providers has been kicking around for some time. The delay in publishing anything on it has been my reluctance to use a NSFW phrase that perfectly describes the predicament of a client not giving a professional services provider the latitude to bring their knowledge and skill to bear to benefit the client. While everyone I’ve shared the NSFW story with completely understands the message, it has never been an angle I wanted to use here.

Strategic Relationships – Take Your Hands Off the Wheel

The other day, however, the idea of client being willing to let a professional services provider “drive the car” after they’ve been hired suddenly clicked.


Enjoy the video and stay tuned for more future Brainzooming videos!  – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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The challenge in a client meeting was developing the strategy for a later meeting intended to build support for a biennial community event. The potential supporters in the later meeting were community organizations. The tricky balance was articulating an initial direction the group couldn’t derail while providing room for them to contribute ideas and time to make the event successful.

Listening to the discussion among the team leader and other members of the organization driving the event, I grabbed paper, a Sharpie, and started organizing their aspirational comments into a presentation for the next day’s meeting.

Within forty-five minutes, I drafted a few slides for them to review and modify. At the conclusion, they had a game plan for securing participation and soliciting input while avoiding comments they didn’t want.

The team leader asked, “How is it possible to listen to us talk and turn it into a strategy so quickly?”

9 Creative Thinking Skills to Turn Talk into Strategy

Creative-Thinking-Skills-Ta

The team leader’s question prompted this list of 9 creative thinking skills that help turn strategic conversations (or even conversations that seem like talking without any particular strategic focus) into something that feels like strategy.

  1. Tie the comments to a structure that’s familiar, already sold in, popular with many people, or classically strategic
  2. Listen for smart things people say, even if they are snippets, and incorporate those right away into the strategy
  3. Remind team members of the smart things they said if they start gravitating toward liking things that aren’t as smart
  4. If team members are saying smarter things, use those while still keeping previous smart things that you are nudging down the list
  5. Listen for things they say more frequently than other things and quickly determine whether these things are smart or simply popular but not smart
  6. If something is off the mark, try to ignore, downplay, or otherwise make sure the idea isn’t brought up again
  7. Repeat the most important and high-impact items in familiar and reinforcing ways
  8. Use odd numbers – five slides, five categories of information (one to a slide), three bullets of explanation under each of the five slides – because odd numbers seem as if you tried to get that one more idea
  9. Incorporate a bigness and boldness into the language you use to describe the strategy in order to stretch the organization

Remember that although these creative thinking skills are presented sequentially, they may be used in any order.

There may also be equally important creative thinking skills not included on the list. This is simply a stab at dissecting how these types of exercises have developed in a variety of situations.

The net of it is this: a lot seemingly wasted business conversations can contribute to progress if you have the wherewithal to listen and restructure them into clear strategies.  Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and 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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Many organizations are in the early stages of executing new strategies for this year.

That is when you discover whether you have a solid, implementable plan or something that (maybe) looks good on paper, but doesn’t work well when you try to execute the strategy.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions for Helping Teams Execute Strategy

Team-Execute-Strategy

When it comes to helping teams execute strategy, we recommend leaders ask themselves these strategic thinking questions before convening the team to launch a new initiative.

  1. Do you personally believe in the strategy?
  2. Is it believable to others?
  3. Were serious, strategic people involved in creating the strategy?
  4. Is the plan realistic – and that doesn’t mean “easy” – just that you can see how it comes together in a reasonable way?
  5. Is the strategy specific and simple enough that people will understand their roles?
  6. Does the implementation team have an opportunity to weigh in and make smart adjustments that improve implementation?
  7. Are there early indicators to signal if something is amiss?
  8. Are there provisions for correcting potential issues?
  9. Is there support for the strategy in the places where it needs support?

Asking yourself these strategic thinking questions upfront gives you a head start to address any issues you can with the strategy you are about to hand over to the team to implement.

So while these questions are about helping teams to execute strategy, they are as much about making sure you’re a strategic leader that is setting up your team and your organization to maximize success.  Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and 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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We’re big proponents of the value of bringing together a diverse group of people with varied creative thinking skills for strategic planning workshops within organizations and communities.

We’re only proponents, however, when there are specific reasons and benefits from the time, effort, and investment to bring a group together in person. Often, however, executives jump too quickly to flying everyone into one place for a big strategic planning meeting. Without defined objectives and the proper timing, however, a big in-person meeting can be a huge waste for everyone.

When discussing a strategic planning or innovation strategy engagement with a client, we use the graphic below to design our recommended approach. We use multiple ways to gather input to ensure that by the time we bring a bigger group together for an in-person visioning workshop we’ve fully exploited more efficient, lower-risk, lower-investment formats to engage participants and solicit input for strategic planning.

Brainzooming-Meeting-Format

We’re increasingly incorporating online collaboration workshops (which we call Zoomferences) to do more of the work typically done through in-person visioning workshops. Sometimes they proceed an in-person strategy planning meeting, but not always. Sometimes we use online collaboration within an in-person strategic planning workshop. There really are all kinds of possibilities.

What’s great about mixing both in-person and online workshops is they allow us to efficiently create white space, i.e. time between coming up with ideas and working with ideas to allow for better organizing, categorizing, and analyzing them. These are all tough to do when you have a group of executives all together; these activities take time. And when you’re limited to having the group all together only for a day, it’s time you can’t usually afford to waste.

3 Ways Online Collaboration Works to Deliver Big Benefits

Here are three ways we’ve used online collaboration workshops to create white space and efficiently incorporate employee creative thinking skills:

Using Zoomferences for an Entire Strategic Planning Process

We completed a transportation company’s entire strategic planning process via four 90-minute Zoomferences over a couple of weeks. Participants were in multiple places and varied for each Zoomference; that made it inefficient to bring everyone together. As we told the CEO that hired The Brainzooming Group, he saved the entire Zoomference investment by eliminating travel and lodging for participants!

Addressing Project Planning with a Zoomference

Working with five separate groups for an industrial manufacturer changing a major manufacturing process, we identified more than six hundred tactics for the multi-year initiative during a two-day in-person workshop. After documenting the tactics, we used a Zoomference so the primary project team could efficiently and collaboratively identify timing for the six-hundred tactics in less than four hours – all online.

Having Sales Leaders Vet and Expand Ideas

We created a fast-paced half-day in-person workshop for a small group of sales and marketing leaders at an animal pharma company. They developed a sales strategy and associated messaging for the upcoming year. Afterward, we used a Zoomference to introduce strategies to its top-performing sales people. They provided input on the biggest impact ideas and how to enrich other strategies through additional creative thinking exercises.

Discover How Online Collaboration Boosts Progress

In each of these casec, Zoomferences provided greater efficiency and participation than could have ever been accomplished using offline techniques or getting everyone in the same room.

Do you see something here that could help develop or shape your strategy and project planning implementation?

Contact us at 816-509-5320 or email at info@brainzooming.com, and let’s get a Zoomference going for your organization!

 Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and 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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Are you experiencing death by meeting syndrome at work?

In all likelihood, you are.

It seems as if everyone we talk to in companies of any size complains about the death by meeting syndrome where it’s impossible to get any work done for all the business meetings they have to attend.

Is there anything you can do to deal with death by meeting syndrome?

Well, you can try!

Death by Meeting – 18 Articles on Effective Meetings

These 18 articles from the Brainzooming archives highlight various techniques we use to manage effective meetings, from meeting logistics to meeting dynamics and meeting decision making.

Brainzooming-Not-Cluster

Effectively Preparing for Meetings

Productive Business Meetings – 16 Questions for Meeting Leaders to Ask

Strategic Planning – 5 Dangers of Cheaping out on Hiring a Facilitator

What’s Your Hourly Rate?

What You Can’t See – A Mini Rant

Meeting Locations

10 Meeting Spaces for Work at Home Professionals, Other than Starbucks

Making Every Occasion an Event

080404 Meeting Summary - Fun King Insane

Meeting Dynamics

Fun Strategic Planning Activities – Do you like doing an ice breaker exercise?

A Strategy for Bringing Customers Into Every Meeting

Musical Chairs – A Seating Strategy

Working from the Same Side of the Table

Corporate Amnesia – 9 Ways to Prevent and Avoid It

7 Tips to Improve Conference Call Presentations

When Is a Meeting Over?

Streamlining Meetings

1 Simple Strategy for Improving Time Management

11 Examples of Strategic Thinking without an Offsite Meeting

Strategic Thinking – 12 Ways Project Teams Can Stay out of the Weeds

Decision Making at Meetings

Creating Strategic Impact – 3 Project Management Steps to Productively Review Concepts

Making a Decision – 7 Situations Begging for Quick Decisions

Mike Brown

 

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Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

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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Many people visit the Brainzooming website looking for ideas on making strategic planning fun. As I always say, those searches are no surprise. I’m a strategic planning guy, and even I don’t enjoy strategic planning the way it is typically handled for groups.

Part of making strategic planning fun involves fun exercises, which we continue to create and share here.

A big part of making strategic planning fun, however, involves focusing on boring details that create a fun* experience.

And the asterisk on fun acknowledges we’re stretching the definition of fun to cover things nerdy strategic planners think are fun such as “mental stimulation,” “highly collaborative groups,” and “people that want to be involved in strategic planning the next time it happens.”

11 Boring Details for Making Strategic Planning Fun*

Strategic-Planning-Fun

In any event, here are 11 boring details that lead to strategic planning-grade fun!

  1. Getting as much homework and other stuff involving individual work done before the strategic planning workshop so everyone isn’t waiting around for one person to share information
  2. Making sure the meeting room isn’t cramped and uncomfortable
  3. Having enough food and drinks throughout the day to help stay energized
  4. Providing structure that takes participants off the hook for starting strategic planning from scratch
  5. Letting everyone know upfront that WE will handle turning the input into a strategic plan (so they don’t have to)
  6. Providing participants with a starting point to begin planning
  7. Offering a shared direction at the start so they have a place to head
  8. Designing strategic thinking questions leading to engaging conversation among familiar and new participants
  9. Not sharing all the upfront homework in long presentations (which are almost always NOT FUN), but instead designing the entire strategic planning workshop to reflect the homework’s findings
  10. Asking people about things they’ve already thought about in new ways so they can actively participate (as opposed to asking them about things they haven’t thought about before using the same old strategic planning questions)
  11. Having toys to distract them and to throw at peers saying stupid things that warrant getting beaned with a harmless squeeze toy

Yes, none of these 11 boring details are glitzy or sexy.

It’s doing boring things in the background, however, that often create lots of the fun in any event. – Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and 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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