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As we mentioned recently, we’re on the lookout everywhere for strategic thinking exercises to share.

AEIB-GraphicWe spotted a recent “Inside the Executive Suite” feature from the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing featuring a thirteen-question checklist for strategic change management. The origin for the strategic change management list was two stories in the Wall Street Journal. One story covered Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon and the other Apple CEO, Tim Cook.  Both CEOs are in the midst of trying to change what have been very successful companies over the long-term.

While issues (some major) exist for both Wal-Mart and Apple, the Inside the Executive Suite piece offered the strategic change management checklist as an example of introducing more aggressive innovation and change management when a company doesn’t exactly seem to need radical change.

A 13-Point Checklist for Strategic Change Management

If you’re contemplating (or even in the midst of) making dramatic changes within your own organization, this list is helpful as a strategic thinking exercise to make sure you’re considering the breadth and depth of changes two pretty successful companies are undertaking.

  1. Are you getting as close as possible to the customer to understand what’s working (or isn’t working) for them?
  2. Are you challenging yourself and the organization by strengthening your leadership team?
  3. Have you looked beyond your immediate organization chart to identify people with important perspectives to fuel innovation and change?
  4. Are you taking steps to invite external parties to help fuel more innovation and improved customer experiences for your brand?
  5. Are you open to matching smart competitive moves you’ve been slow to previously adopt?
  6. Are you learning from the new competitors who are beating your company in new ways?
  7. Are you pushing prototypes, trials, and pilots to dramatically increase the pace of innovation?
  8. Are you making the small internal changes necessary to pave the way for bigger, higher-profile moves?
  9. Have you been willing to go against what brought you earlier success when it might not work in the future?
  10. Is your organization investing in vital areas where competition is going to be waged now and in the future?
  11. Can you stomach making longer-term investments that are critical to growth?
  12. While advocating innovation, are you still emphasizing the fundamentals that haven’t changed?
  13. Are you willing to be a different type of leader at a different type of company?

Using this Strategic Thinking Exercise to Creating Strategic Impact

The “Inside the Executive Suite” article acknowledged that since the list was just developed, there’s no specific number of “Yes” answers to suggest your organization is definitely on the right track or not for creating strategic impact.

Instead, you can use this strategic thinking exercise as a great way to frame up your strategic change management agenda and push for appropriate innovation levels well before you’re in a “must-change now” situation. – 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 brand’s innovation strategy and implementation 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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I was in Dallas delivering the closing keynote presentation on Creating Strategic Impact for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association (TMSA) annual conference.

Based on previous experiences speaking at TMSA conferences, my plan was to avoid the stage and speak from the floor to be as close to the audience as possible.

Setting up for the Creating Strategic Impact presentation several hours early, I placed my laptop on a chair on the floor, rearranged cables, and made sure everything worked. I then unplugged the laptop to head to a breakout session.

Fake-Books

Returning later, someone had returned the cables to the stage. I pulled the cables back to the floor, hooked everything up, did a final test, and went next door to watch the awards presentation.

Returning twenty minutes later, someone had moved the entire setup back to the stage. As I finished moving the laptop back on a chair on the floor, one of the AV techs appeared. He asked why everything kept getting moved to the floor. Explaining the plan to deliver the talk, he asked if I would prefer the laptop be on a table on the floor. I said that would be great if it were not too much trouble. He said it was not; he was sure we could find a table in the service hallway.

As we were about to track down a table in the few moments before the closing keynote was to start, a female tech arrived and asked what we were doing. The male tech explained the plan and said we were going to go find a table instead of the chair I was using.

She turned around to the stage and casually asked, “Why don’t you use the table already on the stage for laptops?”

Well, that was certainly the OBVIOUS answer, but it NEVER occurred to either of us to simply move the table.

That’s because my focus was on the floor. The male AV tech’s focus was on not using the chair.

Neither of us stopped long enough to take in the whole situation and see there was a table right there – behind us. Yet someone with a completely fresh and different perspective of the situation could see the easy answer instantly.

Creating Strategic Impact if Experience Gets in the Way

What a great reminder of how an outsider can see obvious answers that insiders – those most steeped in an issue or opportunity – might never see, no matter how long they look.

Is’ an easy trap for any of us, even those of us who know better, to fall into if we miss viable options our experience prevents us from seeing.

That is why we do what we do, and one big way we add value and specialize in creating strategic impact for our clients.

Could we be of help to you as well? – 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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During a staff meeting call back in the corporate days, a team member whose responsibilities included answering questions for internal clients, recounted how she had received a question from a VP. She proudly reported answering the question in about 45 minutes by giving him a big list of information, and how pleased the VP was with the quick reply.

I questioned her strategic thinking in this situation and challenged her quick response as the wrong thing to do.

Yes, she provided a more targeted pile of information for the VP to locate the answer himself. But, by emphasizing speed, she missed the opportunity to provide even more value. What she gave him was a bunch of useless information to wade through to find the answer he needed, which was maybe 1% of what she gave him.

I asked her whether she might have provided greater value if she had told him it would take a day or two to answer the question. She’d then have the time to cull through the information, identify the EXACT answer the VP needed, and deliver the precise answer to him with a slight, but completely acceptable, delay.

My contention was a day LATER with a specific answer would be of tremendously more value (and the potential for greater accuracy), than a quick, but not precise answer. I couldn’t convince her with my strategic thinking, however, that anything could be more important than fast.

In a world where we celebrate FAST as a nearly universal value driver, it’s easy to miss the fact that sometimes, something else entirely would provide greater value for a client.

13 Reasons to Not Answer Too Fast

Slow-Circle

A comparable situation came up in conversation the other day. It prompted this list of times when it’s better to be SLOWER than FASTER in answering a question:

  1. You could be answering the wrong question right away
  2. The other person may be not be ready for the answer yet
  3. You may need to share more information (over a longer time) to let the other person see how you got the answer
  4. You could be setting unreasonable expectations for the future by answering too fast
  5. Answering too fast is inconsistent with your brand promise or the brand experience
  6. It will compromise your service to other customers
  7. It could remove the motivation for the customer to work with you to provide them the best service over time
  8. They may find the answer suspect if you produce it too quickly
  9. They may find less value in the answer if it appears like it was an off the shelf answer
  10. They may discount the expertise and insight that it takes to produce the answer when it is delivered too quickly
  11. While you may want to answer fast and move on, the client may really need more time and more of your expertise
  12. You miss out on the opportunity to test and adjust the answer based on the perspective of others
  13. You’re foregoing the opportunity to take more time and deliver disproportionately more value in the ultimate answer

Strategic Thinking on Answering Questions

What do you think? Would it make more sense and result in greater value if you slowed down when answering questions? – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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Someone asked me earlier this year if I had simply gone to a facilitation training class, swiped the content, renamed it Brainzooming, and opened up shop.

My answer was an emphatic, “Definitely not!”

What has become the Brainzooming methodology developed from a wide variety of sources.  It evolved into a tested approach for developing strategy that takes full advantage of the diverse inspirations from which its strategic thinking exercises originated.

I was reminded of the diversity of influences we incorporated while creating the Strategic Thinking Fake Book for a recent Creating Strategic Impact workshop.

diverse

In the workshop, we covered twelve different strategic thinking exercises in two hours. Revisiting the twelve strategic thinking exercises presented in the workshop, the inspirations are all over the place:

  • A Fortune 500 CFO
  • A strategic thinking book
  • An advertising agency
  • A poster from a poster shop in New Orleans
  • A strategic mentor
  • A magazine ad
  • My own thinking about anticipating disruptive competitors
  • A different advertising agency
  • My own thinking about social media networks
  • Lateral thinking principles
  • Helping a co-worker try to think differently about a business situation
  • An innovation consultant

The lesson here is there are great strategic thinking examples all around you.

Focus less on business gurus who get written up all the time in magazines and online. Their lessons are broadcast so broadly, there are many people trying to mimic them.

Look instead for the great lessons where perhaps YOU were the only person ever exposed to them who recognized them as strategic thinking lessons.

Those are the ones you can adapt and do something with to really set yourself apart.   – 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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A client made a comment recently, that falls into the, “I know that, but forget about it all the time” category.

While discussing how we’d approach strategy development and creating strategic impact for the organization, the client said, “You guys think about strategic planning very differently.”

That’s true, but it’s easy for us to overlook it.

I often tell participants in our strategic thinking workshops the Brainzooming approach for strategic planning, thinking, and implementation is different because it was designed on the client side, not the agency side. The Brainzooming approach accounts for the fact WE had to live with the plan, its implementation, and the results. We couldn’t simply walk out the door with little concern whether it worked or not.

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The client comment prompted me to include a new section in our strategic thinking workshops on ten fundamentals of creating strategic impact. In this way, participants understand the context for the Brainzooming approach. Since you’re reading our content, it’s valuable to share the ten fundamentals with you here.

10 Fundamentals of Creating Strategic Impact

  1. Strategic thinking involves addressing what matters with insight and innovation.
  2. What’s considered strategic or not shouldn’t involve how far in the future it is.
  3. Use the most important strategic thinking question frequently: What are we trying to achieve?
  4. The greater the range of diverse perspectives you incorporate into strategic thinking, the richer the thinking can be.
  5. Strategic thinking needs to include both quantitative/analytical people and creative people.
  6. The best strategic thinking comes from three strategic perspectives working together: people with direct experience, functional expertise, and creative energy.
  7. Strategy happens at all levels of an organization, so strategic thinking needs to happen at all levels also.
  8. Strong strategic thinking involves both using structure AND actively exploring multiple scenarios.
  9. When it comes to innovation, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” – Linus Pauling
  10. Using non-traditional questions creates strategic detours around conventional thinking.

With that foundation, our strategic thinking workshop attendees (and you) are much better prepared to see how the Brainzooming approach helps you realize incredible advantages in new insights, innovation, efficiency, and results!  – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming 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 brand’s innovation strategy and implementation 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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Idea-Magnets-TitleI think this is a first today. It’s an excerpt from another publication about Brainzooming creative thinking content.

Specifically, this recap of Monday’s “Idea Magnets – Creative Business Leadership” webcast I presented for the American Marketing Association is from “Inside the Executive Suite.” This newsletter is a weekly feature within the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing System. We worked with Keith Prather, the publisher of the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief, for many years in the corporate world. Additionally, when we have a client engagement requiring a larger group of facilitators, Keith is my first call. He was at ground zero when we developed the techniques that later became the Brainzooming strategy methodology.

Beyond this Idea Magnets recap, you should sign up for a free 30-day trial of the Executive Intelligence Briefing System. It’s designed to keep executives current with both what’s going on in the world and what it’s going to mean for their businesses. Additionally, since Keith won’t listen to my pricing strategy advice, you can subscribe to the entire array of multi times per week publications for less than $100 a year. It SHOULD be a four or five-figure subscription, so like I said, subscribe now before I convince Keith to raise the prices!

Without delay, here’s the Armada take on the seven creative thinking characteristics of Idea Magnets. – Mike Brown

 

 7 Keys to How “Idea Magnets” Boost Creativity from “Inside the Executive Suite”

Know someone incredibly strong at generating new ideas and attracting team members who also excel at imagining creative ideas?

If so, you know an “idea magnet.”

Here is our recap and the take-aways from each (idea magnet) characteristic discussed.

Idea Magnets are . . .

1. Inspiring

Idea magnets generate interest and passion for the big objectives and dramatic visions they are trying to accomplish within their organizations. Unlike creative geniuses who may work in a more solitary basis, they want strong creative leaders surrounding them. The bigger team’s creativity helps identify the details behind making the vision a reality.

In sharing a big vision for an organization, whether it’s stated as a core purpose, vision, or mission statement isn’t critical. What’s important is the statement boldly challenges and stretches the organization.

Our take-away: Idea magnets ground creative ideas in strategies and objectives. They are NOT pursuing creativity for creativity’s sake.

2. Serving

Idea magnets are servant leaders. They participate in the challenging tasks they ask their teams to address. They also grow their team members into idea magnets themselves through strategic mentorship, sharing personal lessons with their teams, challenging the status quo, and cultivating team diversity.

Idea magnets surround themselves with smarter, more talented people and display patience while team members do their own explorations to imagine ways to turn the idea magnet’s vision into reality.

Our take-away: Idea magnets aren’t standoffish. They are in the middle of imagining ideas AND accomplishing results.

3. Attracting

Just as magnets attract metal, idea magnets attract great creative leaders and their big ideas. What makes idea magnets so attractive? They bring excitement to the workplace. They also display “abundance thinking. ” What others would consider as constraints, they see as opportunities to pursue more abundant resources and possibilities. They also provide what other leaders need to be abundantly creative, including physical space, time, resources, tools, and interactions with new (and new types of ) people.

Our take-away: The intangibles in business often support abundance thinking. Ideas, energy, passion, and learning aren’t limited, so identify ways to take greater advantage of them.

4. Connecting

Idea magnets connect people and situations to fuel creativity. They are great “and” thinkers. This means they embrace and easily work with both ends of what others might see as opposite perspectives. Idea magnets are strong at:

  • Generating and prioritizing ideas
  • Thinking creatively and implementing ideas
  • Exploiting tested ideas and unknown possibilities

Using creative formulas, idea magnets combine possibilities others would typically miss to create many more new ideas.

Our take-away: Idea magnets we’ve known in business are all strong at spotting relationships between apparently disconnected things. These connections help fuel ideas and anticipate future opportunities.

5. Encouraging

Idea magnets use multiple tools in multiple ways to motivate team members. For example, they might use time in contrasting ways. Sometimes idea magnets negotiate for MORE time so team members can finish necessary creative thinking and implementation. Other times, they may be maxing out the team’s capacity with more projects than they can handle. This LESSENS times for unnecessary creative thinking and encourages rapid progress.

Idea magnets routinely facilitate unique creative experiences, maximize fresh perspectives from new team members, and celebrate successes and the learnings from new ideas that fall short of intended impacts.

Our take-away: By adding one new or unusual variable, idea magnets facilitate once-in-a-lifetime creative experiences. This concept extends to personal relationships, so all you long-time married folks take note!

6. Deciding

Idea magnets imagine and attract many ideas. Processing those ideas so their teams aren’t overwhelmed is imperative. That’s why being strong at “deciding” is vital.

When a project or initiative launches, idea magnets identify upfront how decisions will be made as completion draws near. Sometimes the idea magnet makes the decision; other times, team members will be deciding how the team proceeds. Knowing upfront the freedom team members have in exploring ideas and the approach to setting priorities signals how much autonomy others have to shape strategies to move forward.

Our take-away: While they say in brainstorming sessions there are no bad ideas, there are. It’s vital to pick the right time to decide on good and bad ideas to sustain creative thinking.

7. Replenishing

Applying creative thinking to business issues is mentally stimulating. There’s still the need, however, for idea magnets to replenish creative energy along for the team. Idea magnets understand what encourages their creative passions and what will prepare team members to hit their creative peaks. Idea magnets have to know the people, places, situations, times, and techniques that most readily maximize creativity.

Our take-away: Managing a business team’s creativity is like a basketball coach managing the varied talents and personalities on the team. The idea magnet may have to try a variety of “player” combinations before the team scores creatively.

Is creative thinking and creative business leadership for everyone?

A question at the webcast’s conclusion asked whether creative business leadership is important if you don’t work in a creative field or company. The answer was it’s even more important then to bring fresh ideas to how an organization delivers customer value. – “Inside the Executive Suite”

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’ve all been to a professional development conference that turned out to be a stinker.

And by “stinker,” I mean the conference presentations are weak, too many people are selling stuff vs. being there to learn, and the conference producers seem to have not put meaningful thought into creating a productive conference experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell upfront if a professional development conference is going to be a stinker so you can avoid it?

Keynote-Presenter

8 Warning Signs

Here are eight warning signs to look for to better understand upfront whether a pending conference could turn out to be a stinker:

  1. Are details sketchy on speakers and sessions?
  2. Every time you go to the website, does it look like there have been lots of changes in conference speakers, with some conference speakers being swapped out with others?
  3. Are topics listed without any mention of specific speakers?
  4. Is there tremendous overlap between the named sponsors and the companies of the conference speakers?
  5. Is it difficult to find specific information about the speakers other than on the conference website?
  6. Does there appear to be minimal diversity among speakers, especially with respect to demographics and relevant experience histories?
  7. Are there limited choices attendees can make among content (i.e., not enough separate tracks upon which to customize an attendee’s program)?
  8. Is there a heavy reliance on panel discussions that appear hastily thrown together?

If you answer, “Yes,” to most of those questions, it’s probably going to be a stinker of a conference.

How do you decide a professional development conference could be a stinker?

That’s my list.

What do you look for to spot a professional development conference that seems like it is going to be a stinker? – Mike Brown

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