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We published an article on how to engage a team in strategic thinking and creative thinking exercises without having an offsite meeting.

It prompted a question from our buddy, “Jim in Massachusetts.” Jim asked about handling people not interested in participating. Specifically, Jim asked, “What do you do about the ‘overly serious’ people who don’t get the exercises, never read, ‘Whack on the Side of the Head’ or its sister book, and try to turn these meetings into useless frustration exercises by bitching about the work they are not getting done??”

I address this question all the time in creating strategic impact workshops, but was surprised nothing on Brainzooming covered this.

The point of the “strategic thinking without having an offsite meeting” list was you can engage a team in creative thinking exercises without telegraphing what they are doing.

Small-Group

When Multiple People Aren’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

Suppose multiple people on a team don’t want to engage in creative thinking exercises or anything resembling creative thinking.

  • Typically we try to head this off before things begin by working with the client to plan who will be participating.
  • If several people MUST be there who are reluctant but not obnoxious about not wanting to participate, we spread them out with people who are engaged. We then see if we can win them over to participating.
  • If a few people are ruining things for others and for what we’re trying to accomplish, we might put them all together in a group and let them beat up on one another for the rest of the time. While other participants get to switch groups, they’ll all stay together. If ANYTHING productive comes from them, it’s a pleasant surprise.

 

When One Person Isn’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

With just one person in a group not into creative thinking, our approach is different.

  • If a boss or authority figure is taking energy from creative thinking activities, we pair them with someone that can over-enthuse the group to offset the authority figure. They generally stay together and won’t move to other groups. This minimizes the damage the authority figure might inflict on the group.
  • If we have a good relationship with the authority figure, we might ask them to step aside and only observe. In one case, given a team’s concerns (even through their boss was NOT dampening anything), the client left the room so the team could work on people issues inside the organization unencumbered.
  • If someone other than the boss is overtly antagonistic to strategic thinking exercises and activities, we simply suggest they use the remaining time on their own. This first happened when a curmudgeony director at our company walked in late to a strategy planning activity. He took one look at the toys and noisy people having fun working on new ideas, and told me, “I have real work to do.” I told him we’d all be better off if he concentrated on his real work. That was the end of that.

 

That’s Our Experience

Again, the best way to deal with these situations is heading them off before the group convenes. If not, you may have to improvise. If this situation happens in the future, however, who knows what other solutions the specific setting may inspire! – Mike Brown

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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle got home from work the other day and received a great reminder on why you need to understand your customers, even the ones you don’t realize are trying to become your customers. Without waiting any longer, here’s Woody!

Customer Experience Strategy – Millennials Don’t Wait by Woody Bendle

Ranting-Woody-Bendle2One of my favorite expressions is, “It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look.”  The other evening, my millennial step-daughter reminded of just that.

I’d just gotten home from work, and she was at the kitchen counter with her laptop going through a packet of paperwork and looking frustrated.  I recognized the packet as “the stuff” she needed to get done prior to moving into her first apartment. You know, hooking up the electricity, gas, internet, etc.

I asked her if she’d been able to connect with our insurance agent to get her renter’s insurance set up. She gave me that millennial look that says, “You won’t believe this,” and replied, “I called this afternoon and got their voice mail. It said to leave a message, and someone would get back to me within 24 hours. I left them a message, but I haven’t heard anything from them yet.”

I told her, “They’ll get back with you tomorrow – just be patient.”

That’s when the, “It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look,” moment happened.

She shrugged her shoulders, rolled her eyes, and dispassionately said, “I don’t need to wait,” as she continued scrolling through an online insurance comparison site.

Wait-Wait

IWWIWWAHIWI

For those of you who don’t speak Millennial, IWWIWWAHIWI stands for “I want what I want, when and how I want it.” And therein lies my lesson from the other evening.

I “know” this is how Millennials think and feel from all of the stuff I’ve read over the years about them, but I guess I didn’t “really know” this until the other evening. That reality hit me when I saw how my step-daughter was dealing with not connecting with our insurance agent when SHE tried to connect with him.

With just a few taps on a keyboard, I watched our insurance agent lose business – just like that!

Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of brands and businesses still operating out there assuming that they are fine by just focusing on satisfying the needs and expectations of their current customers (Boomers and Gen-Xrs). And, they don’t have a clue about what’s going to happen to them in a few more years.

My insight from observing a Millennial in the household is this: If you have a business partially dependent upon millennial consumers – either today or tomorrow – and you’re not operating in “now time”, you need to re-tool… now! If you don’t change your customer experience strategy, it’ll be game over before you even know what hit you.

Just remember, not only do Millennials instinctually feel they don’t need to wait; they won’t.

And by the way, the insurance agent still has never called back. – Woody Bendle

 

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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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Sure, you may not know what you don’t know.

You may even think you can’t discover what you don’t know that you don’t know.

But that’s bunk.

9 Ways to Discover What You Don’t Know that You Don’t Know

How-empty

Try these nine ways to discover the blind spots in your knowledge:

  1. Have diverse people around you with lots of interests that don’t match yours.
  2. Listen to what other people are talking about and saying about new things.
  3. Ask great questions of others.
  4. Take every opportunity you can to observe your situation from new perspectives.
  5. Know who you can count on to challenge your thinking.
  6. Surround yourself with people who will talk to you honestly, even when that’s difficult.
  7. Let others share what they know that you don’t know as anonymously or as visibly as they would like.
  8. Always keep the knowledge that you don’t know everything you need to know front and center in your mind.
  9. If you don’t find out at least one new thing you didn’t know that you didn’t know daily, you aren’t trying hard enough . . . so try harder!

Now you know. – Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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 816-509-5320816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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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The April 2015 Fast Company features its list of the biggest business comeback stories during the twenty years the magazine has been publishing.

Each business comeback story is presented individually (expect for Apple, which they say is number one, but never bother to list or write a full profile about the company). I was curious about what successful business strategy moves Fast Company highlighted across the twenty corporations.

To paraphrase the old saying, “curiosity killed the hour” it took to go through the list and uncover the answer to my question.

What’s Behind a Business Comeback?

Traffic-Circle

Based on this very loose analysis, the top five most frequent successful business strategy moves for these business comeback stories are:

  1. New Products: 14 (of 20 comebacks)
  2. New Leaders: 10
  3. Enhanced Brand Experience: 9
  4. New Business Lines: 6
  5. (Tie) Enhanced Advertising/Marketing and Bankruptcy: 5 each

New product growth and turnaround leaders were the most cited factors while only four profiles mentioned major cost cutting efforts, and three highlighted downsizing. Given the magazine’s focus, this list is not a big surprise.

Under different circumstances, it would be intriguing to big deeper into the list and look for more patterns. Since the list is subjective, the very brief profiles are nowhere near comprehensive, and there is a lot of my interpretation in this, however, it is not worth any more time killing.

If you would like to review the analysis with my notes on the comeback proof points Fast Company offers and my “short story” on each comeback, click the image below and go to the PDF.

FC-Comebacks

What are your takeaways from this list of business comebacks? And are there other ones from the past twenty years you would add to the list? – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for stronger new product innovations to drive your business comeback?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness comebacks often tie to introducing new products that more strongly resonate with customers.

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 enable your brand to ideate, prioritize, and develop the innovative growth ideas to spur a business comeback. 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!

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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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Yesterday’s Brainzooming article shared ways to increase the strategic thinking in your organization without holding an offsite meeting.

Here’s another way to improve daily strategic thinking. It builds on one idea in yesterday’s post (“Develop a working command of ten to fifteen strategic thinking questions that fit many of the business and organizational situations you encounter”).

This approach leads to developing a list of targeted questions specific to your business situation. You can complete it in a week, but we recommend spreading it over several weeks or during a typical month of activity.

4 Steps to Customizing Your Strategic Thinking Questions

Creative-Thinking-Question

Step 1. Anticipate

Before the week or month you have selected, list typical business issues and conversations you have with your team and other groups you work with regularly.

Step 2. Categorize

Group the issues and conversations into general categories. Possible examples include:

  • Understanding things (analysis, evaluation)
  • Developing things (innovation, creativity)
  • Building things (operations, manufacturing, efficiency and process improvements)
  • Growing things (creating more sales, implementing more initiatives)
  • Fixing things (diagnosis, correction)
  • Forecasting things (projections, estimates)

Step 3. Track

With the list in Step 2 complete, use it during your selected timeframe to keep track of how many issues and conversations pertain to each category. If you need to add other categories, add them.

Step 4. Compile

After you’re done monitoring your conversations and activities, see where your focus is. Work on developing a custom list of ready-to-use questions in each area. You can mine our extensive lists of strategic thinking questions for ones to use. Here are links to some of our most popular lists:

This focused approach will pay dividends with your ability to develop a solid command of strategic thinking questions for daily use to boost strategic thinking in your team, yourself, and everyone you work with in the organization.  – Mike Brown

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short 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 senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

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
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“Do you have to have an offsite meeting for your team to do strategic thinking?”

A creating strategic impact workshop attendee asked this question.

My unequivocal answer was, “No.”

We teach examples of strategic thinking exercises in a structured way. Workshop attendees also practice using them in workshop settings resembling an offsite meeting environment.

Despite teaching our strategic thinking exercises in a workshop environment, you can use most of them in multiple ways and settings. This flexibility makes it practical to incorporate strategic thinking exercises throughout the business day on a daily basis.

Table-Legos

11 Examples of Strategic Thinking without an Offsite Meeting

These are all ways to introduce strategic discussions within the workday without ever changing your location:

  1. Use the granddaddy of all strategic thinking questions EVERY time it’s appropriate: What are we trying to achieve?
  2. Go out of your way to connect initiatives and activities to the organization’s strategic direction.
  3. Develop a working command of ten to fifteen strategic thinking questions that fit many of the business and organizational situations you encounter.
  4. Have a go-to technique that works in small meetings to increase the number and range of ideas a group is considering.
  5. Identify several analogous situations with similar characteristics to your organization, its markets, its customers, and the competitive set.
  6. Don’t fool yourself into thinking only long-term situations are strategic and miss strategic implications in near-term issues affecting important aspects of your organization.
  7. Create and continually grow the list of strategic thinkers you can involve in the initiatives in which you participate or lead.
  8. Be able to use a four-box grid or some other approach to plot ideas relative to one another and prioritize the best ones to pursue.
  9. Continually work on developing and enhancing your political capital to gain comfort challenging thinking and actions that are off strategy.
  10. Keep up to date on the edges of your industry and other areas related to your organization because the edges are where change happens.
  11. Work on your ability to anticipate what might happen in your organization and industry based on other events taking place.

Doing Strategic Thinking Daily

Do you have to be strong at all these suggestions? If you want to go to the head of the “being able to address strategy at a moment’s notice” class, yes, you do.

If you simply want to push your organization to develop smarter strategies, being able to use even a couple of these examples of strategic thinking will have a noticeable performance impact to improve results. – Mike Brown

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With more messages coming at audiences through more channels, solid branding strategy has to focus on “cutting through the clutter.”

For those unfamiliar with this phrase, cutting through the clutter means getting attention for your messages relative to all the other messages “cluttering” you target audience’s attention.

Last week, Sprint tried cutting through the clutter with me (although they had already done it in an odd and annoying way with the Narwhals ad and the previous Framily ads).

The most recent attempt to cut through the clutter came via a FedEx envelope arriving in the late afternoon. It contained a letter from the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Sprint and a flier comparing Sprint to T-Mobile on price and performance. The letter set the stage, acknowledging consumers make mobile provider decisions based on rates and network quality. The brochure put Sprint up against T-Mobile, making the case for why we should switch from T-Mobile.

Sprint-vs-TMobile

As a nearly twenty-year customer of a Sprint competitor, going the extra step to attempt cutting through the clutter by reaching me in a surprising format for the product category makes sense.

Here’s the thing, however.

I’m a Verizon customer. I’ve never used T-Mobile.

Doh!

Cutting through the Clutter Isn’t Everything in the Branding Strategy

Sprint cut through the clutter, got my attention, and then completely screwed up the message by demonstrating it had no clue about me. I immediately transferred the lack of knowledge Sprint has of me as a prospect to how little they would know or care about me as a customer!

After posting this picture on Facebook, I learned a high school classmate who IS A SPRINT CUSTOMER received the very same FedEx letter. Sending a competitor comparison to a current customer takes even more of the cake than sending one to the wrong competitor’s customer.

The lesson?

This seems like an example of incompletely answering our favorite strategic thinking question, “What are we trying to achieve?”

Cutting through the clutter of mobile provider marketing messages is ONE THING Sprint is trying to achieve. Mission accomplished.

But that wasn’t the COMPLETE answer.

Sprint is trying to win business from T-Mobile customers, obviously. If that’s the case, basic strategic thinking should have led the folks behind the campaign to invest the time and effort to:

  1. Get good data to understand who the T-Mobile customers are, and
  2. Devise a messaging strategy that would still make sense if the data were bad.

Great marketing is great from the initial idea all the way through to implementation and follow up.

Bad marketing generally goes south right from the start, especially when no one is asking the right questions AND demanding the right answers that steer it toward greatness. –  Mike Brown

 

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


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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