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It’s easy for people in big meetings to weasel out of taking responsibility for taking action and moving an initiative forward.

What’s the project management answer to addressing this tendency among teams and team members?

One answer is making sure you identify a DRI.

On-the-Hook

DRI stands for a Directly Responsible Individual. I heard this acronym during a presentation from Amanda Sibley (@AmandaSibley) of Hubspot. The acronym represents someone we’re always looking for in project management to make sure we will make progress.

Amanda Sibley recommends making sure you have at least one DRI for each significant activity in lead generation projects (which was the topic of her presentation at the Social Media Strategies Summit). The DRI concept, however, obviously extends into all project management situations.

While some people naturally gravitate to a DRI role on projects, many people avoid it. Setting the project management expectation in a very explicit way, however, that each major step needs a DRI is a great way to move an initiative toward creating strategic impact. Individuals that are dependable and responsible are vital to a project’s success so that it gets moving and stays on track.

Project Management and 8 Characteristics of a DRI

What are the ideal characteristics of a DRI? A DRI needs to be:

  1. Detail-oriented without ever losing a strong strategic perspective.
  2. Calm under the pressure of implementation and deadlines.
  3. A strong listener with great skill at asking questions.
  4. Able to vary the direction of a project (or a tactic or task) in smart ways to keep moving toward the objective.
  5. Adept at anticipating potential problems and addressing them early.
  6. Able to successfully interact at senior and junior levels within the organization.
  7. Resilient in order to recover from setbacks.
  8. Consistent in how he or she responds to comparable situations.

What characteristics do you look for in a DRI on your projects? – 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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Sometimes you think you know best, only to find later that you have absolutely NO clue.

As an example, I wrote some time back about the “Shrimp” creative thinking exercise we included during a creative thinking workshop for a regulated financial services company.

The point of the Shrimp creative thinking exercise is to generate ideas that will get you in all kinds of trouble with whatever authority figure is most responsible for telling you can’t do any wildly creative ideas. After you push the thinking to as outlandish and dangerous a point as possible, you roll the ideas back to where they are once again doable. The net result is you’ve shaped ideas in ways you never would have considered absent a specific invitation to take it to your most dreaded authority figure.

Rethinking the “Shrimp” Creative Thinking Exercise

So back to what I have no idea about when it comes to Shrimp.

image

Typically I cover Shrimp at the end of any workshop where we are teach strategic thinking exercises. Part of the reason is that when using Shrimp with clients, this creative thinking exercise is slotted near the conclusion when many “small” ideas serve as starting points for the exercise. Because Shrimp is a three-stage creative thinking exercise, however, it’s nearly always one of the first to get cut from the planned agenda. Its three stages take longer to complete and when time is precious, it often seems more like a “nice to have” than a “must have” exercise. The net of it is that we rarely use OR teach it.

Lo and behold, however, the post workshop evaluations at the financial services company showed that a number of individuals singled out Shrimp as particularly usable to help them come up with ideas!

It was no surprise that it worked, but I never expected it to be the most mentioned.

So as I said at the start: sometimes you think you know best, only to find you have no clue!

I’ll take my learnings from this workshop and start making sure we include Shrimp in our next few workshops where it fits. We’ll see if other audiences are interested in it too.  Mike Brown

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

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

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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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What do you do when things aren’t working as planned?

Panicking or shutting down and not trying something different doesn’t work when all eyes are on you.

You have to be ready to try something else, but what?

7 Strategic Thinking Questions When Things Aren’t Working

When things took an unexpected turn the other day, I mentally flew through various strategic thinking questions trying to comes up with ideas to adjust what we were doing.

Wrong-Way

While I didn’t start with a formal group of questions, here are seven strategic thinking questions that helped me quickly identify potential changes to the plan and settle on the best possibilities:

  • Is there something that IS working that I can work with more?
  • Can I take something else I had planned and use a piece of it to fit the new expectation?
  • Is it possible to scrap everything planned and start over again quickly?
  • Can we jump ahead to something already planned?
  • If we go with a different plan, how can I contribute to furthering progress toward our objective?
  • Does someone else have a better idea than I do?
  • How can I convince everyone else to go with my better idea?

Yes, it can be scary to find yourself in a new situation where the usual things aren’t working. For more on that, see this Brainzooming blog post on getting outside your comfort zone.

When you have solid planning (maybe even over-planning), good strategic thinking questions to identify ways to adapt, and an appreciation for flexibility, unexpected events become a wonderful opportunity for learning and developing. – 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 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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We’re developing a workshop on creative thinking techniques for a B2B salesforce in a few weeks. Reviewing the attendees’ pre-workshop surveys on their expectations, personal learning objectives, and needs for creative thinking development, they mentioned “thinking outside the box” and “how to get out of my comfort zone” frequently.

Quite honestly, we don’t use those phrases much. I guess I think of them as what people say about creative thinking when they don’t have anything more substantial to say. They are creative thinking aspirations seemingly devoid of ideas for making them happen.

Despite that, I’ve been thinking about ideas for how to get out of your comfort zone.

Orange-BeanBags

How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

When I think too much about a topic, it often leads to a matrix to think about possibilities. Thinking about a comfort zone as some combination of proven skills and how comfortable your current situation is led to the matrix below.

If you buy the premise behind this matrix, your options for getting outside your comfort zone come down to either learning new skills or pushing beyond the same old situations that feel safe.

Going the learning new skills route leads to questions such as:

  • Do I go deeper in learning more about the skills I have?
  • Should I branch out into learning about new areas related to what I do?
  • Do I take a complete “walk off the ranch” and learn about something that has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever done before?

(If I’m looking to go this route, learning about dance choreography would be at the top of my list for “walk off the ranch” learning. I don’t understand dance at all, but find the idea of choreographing it very intriguing. I’m guessing there would be some valuable learning there.)

If you decide to pursue new situations, those questions might include:

  • What are completely new opportunities to pursue?
  • Are there different venues for doing what I do that I haven’t considered previously?
  • Are there either personal or business bucket list items waiting for me to show up and do something about them?

151116_Safe_to_Scary

Facing an “Immerse or Fail” situation?

Thinking about all this had me considering the upper right quadrant. That’s my worst nightmare quadrant, although I can name a number of occasions in the past few years where I’ve planted myself in the upper right on this matrix.

If you find yourself (or put yourself) in an uncomfortable situation where you need to call upon untested skills, what do you do?

Beyond immersion, there are a couple of options to get your feet back on a little more solid footing:

151116_Scary_to_Safe

Back of the Napkin “How to Get Our of Your Comfort Zone” Ideas

This is a first pass as these ideas to help flesh out our possible content for the creative thinking workshop.

How would you adapt this thinking to improve it? – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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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Great branding strategy examples abound. You just have to be on the lookout for them when they come across your path.

We were in St. Joseph, MO for a client session. The highlight of the car trip was driving by this ice cream stand, Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats. Can you believe how cute this place is? Although the sign outside said it is closed until March, a stop on the way back through town was mandatory to get a few pictures.

Kris-Kate-Ice-Cream-Treats

It was only after pulling into the parking lot at Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats on the return trip that something even more incredible than the building’s design jumped out: the best brand promise ever.

“If you can think it, we can make it.”

Brand-Promise

I don’t know if Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats thinks about this as a brand promise, a slogan, or something else. It really doesn’t matter, because it is the best brand promise ever – and not just for an ice cream stand in St. Joseph, MO.

If your organization specializes in one particular area, your branding strategy discussions should include the question: “If our customers can think it, can we make it?”

If that were your organization’s brand promise, what would you have to do differently with your branding strategy when it comes to:

  • Responsiveness?
  • Flexibility?
  • Your commitment to figuring things out?
  • The ability to anticipate your customers?
  • Being ready for unusual requests?
  • Having resources in place to act?
  • Support organizationally for improvisation?
  • Support and guidelines instead of rules for employee behavior?

It gets pretty dizzying in a hurry!

But wouldn’t the ability to do these things make your brand promise be the best brand promise ever?

I think we just stumbled over our newest brand experience exercise!  – 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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Do you ever get stuck with a big list of items and struggle to make sense of it all?

We have been working with a client that had done a lot of strategic planning exercises about a new initiative. They identified a wide array of ideas related to what they were currently doing to carry out the initiative. This was even before formally launching the initiative.

The challenge with using the big list of ideas they had created was they simply documented the list in the order in which each idea was identified. Because of this, the list was worthless for doing what I suspect everyone hoped it would do: provide a starting point for the strategic thinking needed to back into a definition of and explanation for what the new initiative would turn out to be.

Taking a look at the list, we started trying different approaches to arrange the big list of ideas from their strategic planning exercises into sensible groups to help stimulate progress.

6 Ways to Organize Ideas from Strategic Planning Exercises

Strategic-Thinking-List-Order

Some natural possibilities for arranging a big list could include organizing items:

  • From Earliest to Latest
  • From Latest to Earliest
  • Mostly Alike to Mostly Not Alike
  • In Groups of Items Doing Similar Things
  • With Items Coming from Similar Sources
  • With Things Creating Similar Results

Those are six starting places we often use when trying to organize big lists of ideas coming from strategic planning exercises. What other approaches do you use?

Another possibility is always combining two of these groupings to create a matrix or a table!

If you have enough possibilities and really want to group everything tightly, you could create a table with multiple groupings. That’s what we did for this client’s big list of ideas. We organized the list into two groups based on one cut of what each item did. We then broke each of these groups into three separate groups based upon them doing similar things. And further divided the list into current and future activities. With those changes, we turned the previous work into a platform to both describe the new initiative and help brainstorm ideas for what new, future programs they could introduce to support it.

Several people from the client commented that they finally had something they could work with to move forward. The thing is, they had done the hard strategic thinking and already had all the raw material they needed. Their list just wasn’t put in order and organized.

If you’re dealing with a list of ideas from strategic planning exercises, but it isn’t helping you move forward, we suggest regrouping – no pun intended. Take the time to organize and order the list in compelling, action-inducing ways! – 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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In all likelihood, if you’ve found your way to this website over here in our little spot on the Internet, YOU have the experience, knowledge, and credentials to be an expert in SOMETHING.

That means there is a topic (or maybe there are multiple topics) where you can make a credible claim to be able to offer insights, ideas, and commentary where you are the source. In these cases, you don’t have to rely on someone else for credibility. You can step up and share what you know and think.

If that idea makes you squirm, run for cover, or get ready to explain why you’re not an expert, read this list. It should help you come to grips with your “expertise.”

8 Things to Understand about Being an Expert

Expertise

Here is what it means to be an expert:

  1. You don’t have to be an expert in everything.
  2. Your expertise could be in just one, fairly narrow topic.
  3. Even if you expertise is narrow, you can generalize it and apply it to analogous or comparable situations.
  4. You may have to do homework on yourself and your own background to flesh out the definition and range of your expertise.
  5. You don’t have to be smarter than other people in the field.
  6. You don’t have to be more experienced than other people in the field.
  7. You do have to be able to draw a line around and articulate what your expertise is and on what you are making the claim for expertise.
  8. Just because you’re an expert in something doesn’t mean you have to write a blog or start tweeting up a storm.

Does that help?

Claim your expertise, and start proving it – today, and every day after that! – Mike Brown

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

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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