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A participant at a Brainzooming creative leadership presentation stayed afterward.

He asked an intriguing question.

His department is about to undergo a reorganization. Currently, certain people are underutilized. While the reorganization isn’t intended to move them out of the department, he wondered how to best involve all the team members in re-imagining the department. He wanted ideas to do that without making the currently underutilized employees nervous. Additionally, he doesn’t want them to try to game answers to the questions to keep themselves fully employed and under-worked.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Engage Employees in Reorganization

I offered him five strategic thinking questions:

  • When is our organization at its best in performing the variety of activities we do?
  • What professional skills – whether used in your job currently or not – could you teach other department members to improve everyone’s effectiveness?
  • On what activities do our internal customers spend more time than they prefer (and that we can better address)?
  • What are our internal customers not able to accomplish because they are bogged down with other duties?
  • Where could we provide greater value if we were able to prioritize or focus more?

All five strategic thinking questions avoid anyone needing to game the answers to protect themselves or expose anyone else. I suggested that he ask the questions individually, compile the answers, and then use an edited version of the responses to shape the team discussion.

If you’re facing a similar situation: keep it neutral, simple, and focused to help your team constructively contribute to reorganizing in the smartest, most strategic way possible. – Mike Brown

Looking for Fresh Insights to Drive Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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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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I had a day-long meeting with one of our strategic partners to further develop our inbound marketing strategy. He commented near the meeting’s end that he appreciated that we spent our time collaborating instead of having him put on a show-and-tell for me. As he put it, the meeting allowed him to be himself, for which he was grateful.

He said that he imagined that our meeting was like what a Brainzooming strategy workshop would be like. I told him it definitely was.

8 Principles to Create Collaborative Meetings

Want to create meetings that are more about do and accomplish than about putting on a show?

Here are eight principles we embrace to make that happen:

  1. Be yourself.
  2. Let others be themselves.
  3. Don’t make anyone conform to an external standard for the proper behavior in a meeting.
  4. Discuss things that people really understand and know about.
  5. Don’t over-manage the process to the point where the process gets in the way of getting something accomplished.
  6. Trust that if everyone comes in with good intentions and a bias toward results, good things and productive results will transpire.
  7. Use analysis as a platform for places to go, not as a tool to shoot down new thinking.
  8. Accept the unexpected.

Looking to create collaborative meetings?

Embrace these eight principles. They work. We use them in everything we do.

Want even more help to create collaborative meetings? Contact us, and let’s chat about how Brainzooming can help facilitate collaborative, strategic meetings for YOUR organization! – Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved 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

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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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When you are faced with a new strategic thinking quandary, what do you do?

Here is the Brainzooming formula to improvise strategic thinking questions and use them to solve a business challenge:

The first question is: What has worked in this situation or with this client before? Return to that technique, framework, or outcome. This creates CONTINUITY.

The second option: Look for what has worked elsewhere in comparable situations. This takes advantage of LESSONS LEARNED.

Option three: Look for different, but similar situations that could apply and frame the discussion or decision in light of those. Here, it’s all about the power of ANALOGIES.

The fourth option: Ask, “What can I pull out of my rear to experiment with and see if it will work?” THIS is total improv.

If all else fails: Call a break in the activities to CLEAR YOUR MIND, THINK, and PRAY for more strategic thinking questions to imagine and try. – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



 

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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Looking for a quick way to generate tons of innovative ideas?

If you need a lot of innovative ideas in a hurry, here’s a mega-simple way of generating them: Select the objective, opportunity, or challenge you are trying to address. Get a magazine with lots of big headlines, great photos, and cool ads. It helps to have a Sharpie and little sticky notes, #OBVI. Flip through each page of the magazine asking, “What innovative ideas for my opportunity does this page suggest?” Write the ideas on the sticky notes and place them on the pages.

For me right now, Domino magazine is a particularly productive magazine for new ideas, as is apparent!

So, if you are on your own and need help to generate a lot of innovative ideas in a hurry, it’s a simple creative thinking formula:

A magazine with lots of pictures and headlines +

Sticky notes +

A pen +

A few minutes =

Scores of innovative ideas!

– Mike Brown

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Find New Resources to Innovate!

FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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Someone wondered about the range of topics included in the disruptive innovation strategy workshop we delivered recently. Even though the workshop spanned nearly ten hours over two days, we had to narrow the content significantly to achieve the client’s innovation objectives.

The reason?

We had a tremendous amount of work to get done!

The objective involved taking twenty-three tables of participants through innovation strategy exercises to identify disruptive concepts, craft strategies, document audience profiles, imagine ideas, develop market positions, and propose all the ideas in 9-second pitches.

See why we couldn’t cover EVERYTHING we hoped to address?

We led the group through a customized Brainzooming Innovation Fake Book of exercises. We did a few mini-keynotes. We kept the energy going. We had audience participation. And we made sure that every table reporting out received tokens as prizes.

27 Links to Energize Your Innovation Strategy

If you’re interested in reviewing some of the innovation strategy content we shared during the workshop, here are links within three major focus areas:

  • Imagine
  • Innovate
  • Implement

The three areas are important because you need all of them to turn ideas into business results.

Imagine

Innovate

Implement

Suffice it to say, we oversaw LOTS of learning and many activities. Nothing, however, was more important than the hard (and rewarding) work of creating and pitching all those innovative concepts!

Looking to similarly boost your team’s innovation skills, ideas, and, energy? Contact us to talk about delivering a Brainzooming innovation strategy workshop for your team, right away! – Mike Brown

Want to improve your organization’s innovation success?

If you want greater success and impact from innovation, but are not sure what to do next, Brainzooming has the answer.

Complete your brief Innovation Assessment and discover your best opportunities to improve future innovation results! It’s FREE, and will set the stage for enlivening your innovation strategy. Discover your true innovation potential today!

Want to improve your innovation success? The answer is easier than you think!

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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(Adapted from Inside the Executive Suite by Armada Corporate Intelligence)

Two junior team members in chief of staff / program manager roles asked how to best align with senior leaders to successfully share a strategy across an organization. Each was concerned about having enough regular access to senior leaders to feel comfortable in delivering consistent communications relative to what they would be saying in other forums. The challenge is doing more than just sending out a plan and expecting people to naturally understand the organization’s direction.

The Way to Successfully Share a Strategy

What can a senior leader do to share personal perspectives and expectations to facilitate stronger strategy implementation in an organization?

We recommend that an executive team develop its own strategy brief to support better, more aligned communication, and ultimately, strategy implementation. Borrowed from the idea of a communications brief, a strategy brief will:

  • Prompt greater strategic clarity and expectation setting
  • Help team members who are working on communicating and implementing the plan to perform effectively and creatively
  • Facilitate objectivity when judging the effectiveness and success of early strategy implementation

The strategy implementation brief contains three types of information:

  • Objectives – Detailing where the strategy should lead the organization, who it will impact, and what beliefs and action will be most important to success.
  • Preferences – Shares what messages, messaging styles, timing, and reinforcements pave the way for greater alignment.
  • Guidelines – Laying out what the strategy communication and implementation team needs to incorporate and avoid.

Within that framework, here are the questions to answer so your team can most effectively represent senior leadership to the entire organization.

Objectives

  • What is on the short list of initiatives that will move the organization forward?

Answering this question is step one in getting your strategic plan down to a bite-sized aspiration. Of all the initiatives you have planned, which handful are you, as a senior executive, going to monitor most closely? Your answer will determine whether you are going to move the needle or not.

  • What are your beliefs about the organization’s current situation? What do you think the broader organization’s beliefs are about the current situation? How do they need to change?

These questions begin addressing the arc of change you expect the organization to embrace. Is change critical to taking advantage of opportunities? Is a dramatically different direction needed to ward off challenges, but only after you overcome organizational complacency? Importantly, does the broad employee base see the organization’s situation comparably to the senior team? If not, orient the change communication toward what will make sense to THEM.

  • How do you expect the organization to think, behave, and perform differently with successful implementation?

Don’t spell out dozens of things you need employees to address so you can affect the desired strategic changes. Push your executive team to spell out five or fewer thinking and performance changes you are looking for from the organization. Pick only ones that will make a noticeable difference in results.

Preferences

  • What are the most important messages to convey and reinforce?

Identify the short list of messages most important for each target audience. Then do whatever homework you can do to see how those messages will resonate with your audiences. Far better to talk to audiences in ways that resonate with them versus ways that make sense to the senior executives.

  • What are the rallying points you will personally use to build momentum? How consistent do you expect to be in your own communication and messaging?

Share the talking points you expect will work best for you when you are interacting personally with audience members. Spell out how comfortable and confident you are in staying consistent with your messages. If you expect to shift them or are prone to get swept up in the moment and venture into new territory, let your team know to check back frequently for updates.

  • What emotions are relevant and okay to leverage to increase communication receptiveness?

Even if you’re data-driven and uncomfortable with emotional appeals, they do play an important role in business communication. Lay the groundwork for integrating appropriate emotions to move hearts in addition to minds.

Guidelines

  • Where are you looking for the team and others closer to the broader employee base to exercise their own creativity?

Once you’ve provided the foundation for your implementation team, let them know where they have room to bring their own ideas and variations to your thinking. Don’t expect them to be order takers, simply carrying out everything you dictate. Give yourself the advantage of tapping into the team’s expertise.

  • What touch points and feedback do you want from the implementation team?

This goes along with the previous direction. Share how involved and active you expect to be with the team. Make sure everyone understands how much latitude they have to act vs. circling back to the executive team for frequent check-ins.

  • What adjustments are you prepared to make if things seem off track?

Knowing your commitment level to the current direction helps the team plan for appropriate levels of change. Have you chosen an unwavering path, or are you experimenting your way into a new strategy, expecting to learn and adapt for the foreseeable future?

To Successfully Share a Strategy, Don’t Keep Your Implementation Team in the Dark

While it’s hardly statistically projectable, the two individuals asking how to align with senior leader messaging are likely voicing the sentiment of junior team members on the hook to implement your senior-level strategies. That’s why a strategic implementation brief is valuable for paving the way for an organization’s successful strategy implementation. – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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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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I lector at several different Catholic parishes around town (since, as one priest put it, I’m a Roamin’ Catholic). One parish provides an annual guide to the primary Bible readings included at mass. It contains background information, pronunciation guides, and verbal cues for reading the Bible passage to the congregation.

My reading assignment for Holy Thursday mass was a passage from Exodus. In it, God gives Moses and Aaron instructions for how the Passover meal is to be prepared and consumed. The background information discussed how central the Passover is to the identity of the Israelites and their relationship with God. It highlighted the three ways Passover is ingrained in the community’s identity through:

  • Creed – God’s identity is frequently described in relation to freeing the Israelites from Egypt
  • Story – Communications that point to and reinforce God’s role with the Israelites
  • Ritual – Prescribed celebrations (i.e., the Passover) that the entire community participates in together

These categories resonated with me as we work with clients on brand identity and culture change engagements. The structure conveniently organizes ideas. More importantly, it is valuable for generating new ideas to solidify and reinforce an organizational identity.

Let’s slightly adapt the categories for use in business and professional settings as a means to solidify organizational identity. Consider using:

  • Beliefs – Fundamental principles organization members believe and that shape their identity and relationship to the organization.
  • Stories – Messages that convey the organization’s past, present, and future among its employees and other audiences.
  • Ritual – The actions and behaviors organization members display to signal their belief and commitment to the organization’s purpose.

Put simply, how are you cultivating and reinforcing what your organization believes, says, and does to strengthen your organizational identity? – 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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