1

When it comes to designing and conducting Brainzooming sessions, we know providing creative thinking exercises and structure to participants creates a more productive, efficient, beneficial, and stimulating experience, along with much better results.

In spite of that, what actually happens when people interact and use our process is that our creative thinking exercises change and grow constantly.

This change is a direct result of giving people the freedom to use our Brainzooming creative thinking exercises as a jumping off point for exploration, not as structures to follow without variation.

I understand how integral everything in the last three paragraphs is to what we do.

Yet our experiences the last two days conducting large (fifty and more than one hundred person) sessions suggests starting creative thinking exercises with ground rules and sharing what we expect to accomplish implies to many people that the Brainzooming approach is rigid.

poster-pic

Change and Grow Constantly

Case in point, one recruited facilitator for yesterday’s incredible session at the Nature Explore / Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute reported to me that he had “subverted me” by telling a table that multiple people could write ideas instead of picking one person as I had suggested earlier. I told him that was fine, he wasn’t subverting me, and he didn’t even need to let me know . . . whatever he told them to do would make sense.

A participant at another table close by asked about varying the instructions for how they applied sticky dots during a voting exercise. I reiterated what I had told the group, but said if she did it differently it would be fine and that I’d never have any idea afterward.

It’s those variations to the creative thinking exercises as a session happens that make them grow and get better.

What I don’t tell participants is how much variation I throw at them that’s never apparent to them. In these last two days, we went “off script” through:

  • Changing from a two-facilitator to a three-facilitator session right before it happened.
  • Having each small group approach a planned set of creative thinking exercises in a completely different path to compensate for suddenly having three facilitators.
  • Telling groups they could take their posters outside and work instead of staying in the crowded conference room to hear the ongoing instructions.
  • Taking precious, limited time with the group to have one hundred people sing Happy Birthday to one of the participants.
  • Using the last two minutes of extra time (when I couldn’t get more sticky dots to people) to spontaneously have people draw hearts on ideas they loved.

None of those variations was part of our internal instructions for the session beforehand.

All of them and more (including audience-suggested changes) were implemented on the fly to make the most of the creative thinking exercises as they were happening.

Creative Thinking Exercises Use Structure and Variation

We design and plan a session in tremendous detail whether it includes five people or more than a hundred people. Once we have a plan, however, we’re open to changing it like crazy to get the most from and deliver the most to a group.

Does it work?

As one participant from Chicago at the Leadership Institute told me as she was getting ready to leave, “I see there’s a difference between brainstorming and Brainzooming. Brainzooming is fun.” – 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.

I’ll take that as a huge validation for the power of structure and variation working together!

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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2

Based on the title, you might have been expecting a list from The Art of War.

If so, that’s not where we’re headed today.

St-Johns-Church-Cleveland

With yesterday’s post about discovering strategic insights I use in the secular world while at church, I challenged myself to document and share what some of the other strategic insights from church were.

The list starts with yesterday’s strategic insight about “small, possible steps” and adds the first eleven others I jotted down from my hymnal notes and Bible classes of the last few years.

12 Strategic Insights from Thousands of Years Ago

In an age when it’s fashionable to rule out religion as just some outdated thinking (or imagination or fables) from long-dead people, I’d stand behind any of this wisdom as highly relevant to my workday, and likely that of any reader here, as well:

  1. Once you’ve figured out where you’re headed, take all the small, possible steps you can to get headed there as directly as you can.
  2. Anyone, even the most unlikely person, can be THE person to save the day (or the strategy, project, event, etc.).
  3. It doesn’t so much matter if you’re off track during the process as whether you are heading in the right direction and how you ultimately wind up at the end.
  4. People get multiple chances, even if they burn you on the second or third chance.
  5. You’ll have a lot more success if everything you do reinforces everything else you’re doing in a conscious, deliberate way.
  6. Sometimes you’ll have to walk away from your original audience when they’ve decided they just aren’t interested.
  7. Wisdom trumps just about everything.
  8. You’ll typically have an easier go of things if you can deliver what leadership is looking for first, even if you have bigger or different ideas in mind.
  9. People aren’t always going to be ready to follow right away so you have to get them ready to see why your direction is the best.
  10. Use history to your advantage.
  11. When personal inspiration is lacking, familiar structure can get you started while inspiration catches up.
  12. There is tremendous learning and change value in repeating and integrating messages at pre-planned times.

I’ll add to this list over time as I keep oncovering new strategic insights. - 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 and strategic thinking 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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these 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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2

Trying to be perfect has come up in several strategic thinking workshops and conversations recently.

I definitely understand trying to be perfect. Been there, done that, and still try to do it way too often. But I’m getting better, even if not perfect, at cutting myself a break and not wasting time and energy on all the strategic thinking that can go into trying to be perfect according to standards nobody else really cares about at all.

Do you struggle with trying to be perfect?

7 Ways to Chill Out and Move beyond Being Perfect

Here are seven strategic thinking reminders I keep telling myself to try to get over the call to needlessly being perfect:

  1. Recall all the times when things weren’t EXACTLY perfect yet EVERYTHING was still completely fine. That’s the first step in lowering your own expectations for perfection.
  2. Understand that in most business situations, meeting your commitment to get something done is more important than absolute perfection coupled with the imperfection of delay after delay while you work on perfect.
  3. Go ahead and pick SOMETHING to be perfect at, realizing it means other things WON’T BE perfect as a result.
  4. Remember how many times you knew there were problems with something and NO ONE else did.
  5. Realize that all the collateral damage from being perfect in one situation keeps you from pursuing all kinds of other opportunities.
  6. If you weren’t such a perfectionist, other people would be able to HELP YOU and relieve your stress. Get over it and give someone else a chance to do even better than you might.
  7. It’s okay to have do overs; just make it easy on yourself to start over if something goes wrong.

Horsehoe-Game

Strategic Thinking on Being Perfect

I’m sure this list isn’t perfect. It could be written better or maybe things are missing.

But I’m okay with that! - Mike Brown

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


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking 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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these 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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1

Yesterday’s article talked about creating strategic impact through breaking a business and recreating it as something new and better. I’ve been reworking various Brainzooming strategic thinking questions to make them better suited for identifying and exploring concepts for breaking a business.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions for Breaking a Business

Here’s a working list of the first nine refashioned strategic thinking questions.

  1. How would an incredibly successful company with a very different business model rework our business into something new?
  2. How can we go shopping with our customers on a daily basis to gain breakthrough product ideas?
  3. What do we have to do to increase our number of employee-generated ideas by 100x?
  4. If we listed everything we think is essential to our business, what would be the first 50 percent of items we would cut from the list to remake our organization?
  5. If we cut the number of product/service options, variations, and alternatives we offer customers, what else would we do to improve the value we deliver to them?
  6. What has our industry known about and ignored for years that could deliver incredible value to customers that no one has every pursued?
  7. If our brand is trying to catch the #1 in our industry, what can we do completely differently instead of simply following the leader once again?
  8. How can we boost our speed, expertise, and strategic thinking by an order of magnitude to disrupt our industry?
  9. How could we turn the most complicated processes in our customer experience into one-step processes that are dramatically easier for clients?

The first couple of questions focus on generating many more insights; three through seven address strategic options; eight and nine push for creating strategic impact via increased speed and simplification.

Which of these strategic thinking questions would you tackle first?

I’m leaning toward 1, 4, 5, and 9 as our initial strategic thinking questions to think about breaking our business and turning it into something new.

Which questions get you thinking about breaking your business? – 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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Between working with smart consultants at A.T. Kearney and spending time at the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership on multiple occasions, I became immersed in the concept of “high performing customers.”

As shared in a previous post, I obviously had some notion of making others “high performing” early in life. These later influences, however, provided a way to envision and define the concept more formally. You can think about creating high performing customers as anticipating what people taking part in a process might need to learn, know, or do, as well as how they need to adapt and behave so the process owner can deliver the greatest value.

Think about the vocabulary and process Starbucks uses to keeps its lines moving as smoothly as possible; that’s what we’re talking about with this concept.

7 Questions for Creating High Performing Customers

High performing customers have been at the forefront of my thinking while developing a new stream of Creating Strategic Impact content for a client workshop. While the workshop is rooted in strategic thinking, the focus is heavy on how to adapt a strategic planning process so the Marketing team can better facilitate annual planning.

impact-kauffman

If you have responsibility for designing, developing, or improving a process (especially related to strategic planning), here are seven questions to explore before you begin your task:

  1. What do participants know right now, and what do we need them to know?
  2. What strengths do they already have that will boost their success?
  3. How can we compensate for their weaknesses by changing the process or bringing other resources to them?
  4. How should the process be designed to keep them engaged (mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, etc.) as long as needed?
  5. Are the participants pretty much the same, or do some of them have materially greater or lesser likelihoods of success?
  6. In what ways can we involve participants with the highest likelihood of success to shape and/or help carry out the process for others?
  7. In what ways will other processes they are involved with affect their success?

The answers to these questions are tremendously helpful in thinking about processes from a user’s perspective to help design something that sets them up for success.

How We Apply these Questions to Strategic Planning Process Design

When I tell people we design planning processes to suit a client’s situation, as opposed to introducing a standard process, they must wonder what that means exactly.

Our strategic view is it’s easier to change what we do to help participants perform as needed, than deal with the frustration and challenges of putting them through a strategic planning process that is ideal for us, but doesn’t work for them. This distinction is at the heart of how we approach strategic planning.

If you’re up for it, let’s talk about what this concept might mean for planning at your organization. – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your 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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Creative-ContentI’ve been in Boston most of the week where I led off the Frost and Sullivan Marketing World event for the second year in a row with a half-day social media and content marketing workshop.

This year’s workshop was an interactive session centered on adopting a TV network’s perspective to help a brand better develop a social media strategy to deliver engaging, audience-oriented content. The participating brands included IBM, Wells Fargo, McKesson, USAA, and The Hartford.

One content marketing tool we addressed was our approach to using offline models to help people not immersed in social media strategy to better understand how to approach using them successfully. We’ve learned, however, that no matter how deep someone is in social media, these models are beneficial to help think about appropriate content and practices for brands.

That’s why I returned to that workshop exercise after the session when one of the attendees about her trepidation and frustrations with Twitter. Her sentiment is interesting given she is on the forefront of using and teaching social media within her organization.

14 Networking Tips that Work on Twitter, Too

To help her and other individuals (and brands) who struggle with Twitter get started, here’s a list of fourteen Twitter tips to get the most out of in-person networking events I compiled based on a number of online articles.

Read through the list, however, with an eye toward Twitter. You should quickly notice each of the suggestions applies directly to using Twitter more effectively.

  1. Perform some research before you show up.
  2.  Plan on making solid connections with just a few people each time
  3. Don’t pounce on someone and hang on them for dear life.
  4. Don’t just stick with the people you know; mill around and meet some new people.
  5. Get near the food since everybody has to pass by the food.
  6. Have a standard introduction in mind that you can use or adapt to fit the situation.
  7. Be the first to introduce yourself, and time it well to get someone else’s attention.
  8. Bring a friend and perhaps introduce one another to the people one or the other of you knows.
  9. Do more listening and less talking.
  10. Keep the conversation short and pithy.
  11. Don’t talk exclusively about business or you will be a bore.
  12. Don’t try to juggle too much stuff in your hands while you are networking; you don’t want to be distracted.
  13. Have current business information available that others can refer to after you disengage.
  14. Close the conversation before you hit that “weird silence” that says you’ve overstayed your welcome.

Granted, there are a couple of specifics you’ll want to introduce to completely Twitterfy the list:

For number 5, the “food” you’ll want to stand next to includes Twitter chats and conversations involving popular Twitter hashtags.
With number 12, the “stuff” is tweeting the same link to multiple people to get them to go to your website or steering every Twitter conversation to what you’re selling.
Finally, the current contact information is what’s contained in your Twitter profile.

These fourteen Twitter tips aren’t EVERYTHING you need to know to be more successful in using Twitter for business, but if you concentrate on these fourteen, you’re most of the way there, and will be better than MANY great offline brands that still aren’t getting how to translate their brand to the online world. - Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of a social media strategy with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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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Here’s a career success idea that can provide returns in multiple dimensions of your career: create a “Smile File” to capture good news related your career success.

What’s a Smile File?

Smile-file

A smile file is a repository of successes, congratulations, comments, feedback, and other mementos of your career. Some specific items could include:

  • Thank you notes you receive
  • Outstanding job review documents
  • Final recaps on products, services, programs, processes, and other efforts you’ve managed or contributed to meaningfully
  • Emails you receive as testimonials
  • Photos of great team performance
  • Copies of materials you’ve produced that have exceeded expectations
  • Notes and kudos from co-workers

That’s simply a starting list.

Basically anything that brings to mind a career success and brings a smile to your face when you see or remember it is fair game for your smile file.

How does a smile file help your career success?

  • When updating your resume or LinkedIn profile, these items are wonderful reminders of things to include
  • If you’re having a “I’m a fraud day,” your smile file mementos will demonstrate you really aren’t a fraud.
  • They will cheer you up on bad days
  • They can help you prepare for your next job review
  • It’s tangible evidence when people question the impact of things you are addressing in your job

It’s a simple idea, but a smile file can make all the different on a bad day when it seems you’re having anything BUT career success.

Trust me . . . it works! - Mike Brown

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


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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these 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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