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You know you need to start a strategic planning process for next year.

Starting, however, has been delayed amid everything else you have had going on recently. If this sounds like your situation, what can you do right away to jump start strategic planning?

8-ball

5 Things to do if You Haven’t Started Strategic Planning Yet

Here are five steps you can take right away to catch up some time and make it seem as if you are completely on top of next year’s strategic planning process.

1. Inventory Historical Info

Inventory what you know about your customers, markets, and competitors based on whether you know / think it’s still relevant or not. Then see how much of the out-of-date information you can start updating.

2. Broaden Your Sources of Planning Input

Figure out a way to quickly reach out as broadly as you can inside and outside your organization to understand new perspectives on customers, markets, and trends. If you’re unsure about doing this, email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320; we can help make it happen efficiently and effectively.

3. Get a Team Together

Assemble a team of smart, diverse people to help get your strategic planning process going. Even if it’s only one or two people, their strong participation will be a HUGE help.

4. Update the Strategic Foundation

Gather all the documents and strategic pronouncements your organization has already created addressing your organization’s direction the last 1-2 years. Organize these based on whether they align or don’t align to what has actually been happening the last 1-2 years.

5. Schedule Time Now

Book time with you organization’s leadership NOW for when you’ll need individual input, when you’ll want them to meet as a group for strategic planning, and when you’ll want them to review the preliminary planning work.

It’s Just Five Things

See, tackling just these five tasks this week will give your strategic planning process an incredible boost toward next year.

Want more tips to simplify strategic planning? Subscribe to the Brainzooming blog as we share more tips during the weeks ahead! – Mike Brown

10 Ways to Effectively Engage Employees in Your Strategy for RESULTS!!!

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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Suppose you’re on the hook to create a vision statement for a new organizational initiative. This seems like an assignment that is simple, complex, and fraught with potential missteps – all at the same time.

That’s especially true if the organization has already launched an initiative before recognizing the need for an over-arching vision statement.

When that happens, what visioning exercises make sense? How do you develop a vision statement when it is trying to catch up to an initiative that is already underway.

4 Visioning Exercises to Rework a Faulty Vision Statement

Clouds-Vision

Your strategy for selecting visioning exercises depends, in part, on what type of direction has been already communicated about the initiative. Here’s our quick advice on potential first steps for visioning exercises based on various starting points:

1. An initiative already has a slogan or catchphrase, but little else behind it

This describes a situation where a senior leader has coined a phrase or been mentioning a favorite new concept. This can lead to confusion and consternation in the organization as everyone tries to interpret what the senior leader means.

Visioning Exercise Approach: In these instances, extract significant words from the slogan and work on defining what each of them could mean in describing the initiative’s vision. Try to imagine several possibilities for each of these words. Using this approach, you’ll create a menu of strategic possibilities which you can mix, match, combine, and simplify to state a more defined vision statement.

2. There is already something resembling a vision statement, but it’s too generic

We’ve all seen a jargon-filled statement that seems as if it were spewed fresh from an all-purpose business jargon generator. It may seem sound impressive initially, but no one has any idea what it really means for the organization that’s touting it as a vision statement.

Visioning Exercise Approach: Your first step is to pull an existing statement as close to the organization’s real world as possible. If took out all the jargon, is there anything left in the statement? Suppose average employees were saying this (and trying to remember it); how would they be describing it in real, understandable words? Are there words used in the statement that could be easily translated or modified to link to strategic foundations the organization already has in place?

3. A current big statement focuses completely on aspiration with no ideas for implementation

This type of statement sounds like it came from the organization saying it, yet it seems so audacious and far off, it’s difficult to know what the organization should be doing to turn it into reality.

Visioning Exercise Approach: When you need to translate organizational aspirations into concrete actions, start asking outcomes-oriented questions. How will we know when we reach this vision? What will have had to happen to help us get there? What would be the potential first steps to reaching the desired outcome?

4. There isn’t anything close enough to resembling a vision statement

Visioning Exercise Approach: In this case, start asking questions about aspirations, emotional words that describe a hopeful future, and possibilities customers would like the brand to deliver. – 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

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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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There was a Brainzooming posse in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday as Marianne Carr and I attended ConfabuLarryum, the Lawrence festival of creativity. In just its second year, Ben Smith’s brainchild increased its attendance 4x to more than 5,000 adults and kids.

What a fantastic event celebrating creative thinking skills of all kinds!

ConfabuLarryum-Wideshot

The only disappointment was I didn’t get to spend any time with the incredible array of activities and demonstrations. With a noon time slot to speak, I stayed in the auditorium to see the presentations before mine, getting a read on the audience, the room, and what content would work most effectively.

I presented a mini-workshop on Busting Creativity Barriers. One of the audience questions from a fourth grade teacher was on  how to help kids stop editing their creativity and new ideas for fear of being wrong.

My response was that’s clearly a challenge in a school environment where we are grading kids on their academic performance and monitoring all their actions and behaviors for conformity to expectations. Talk about a recipe for teaching children to edit their creativity and curb their creative thinking skills! It takes a full-blown creative rebel to survive creatively in that environment. And that survival will likely be VERY rocky because a student putting up enough of a fight to hang on to their own creative thinking skills and instincts will be going dangerously against the grain.

How about establishing a grade-free zone to cultivate creative thinking skills?

My spontaneous idea and response to her question was to create a grade-free zone in the classroom. This would be a spot where children could go to experiment, imagine ideas, and explore their creative thinking skills without ANY grading or correction.

Thinking about it, the grade-free zone might be a physical location in the classroom, a condition (i.e., a certain day or days), a situation (i.e., a child could call for grade-free zone time to create), or maybe all three of these.

Grade-Free-Zone

What else might need to be in place for a successful grade-free zone?

Those are some initial thoughts from someone who ISN’T a childhood educator; they are based, however, on how we try to create what are essentially grade-free zones inside creative thinking workshops. It would be interesting to see how my friends at the Boulder Journey School would address the question!

Two other thoughts emerged later:

  • Perhaps rather than being grade-free, the zone should be an all-A zone. That would be akin to conductor Benjamin Zander’s statement that he only teaches A students.
  • Even though ConfabuLarryum WAS a grade free zone filled with all kinds of creative outlets, I heavily edited my workshop presentation before starting, inserting stories that weren’t part of the presentation when I walked in the building and taking out a number of pieces.

I guess being grade-free is harder than it initially sounds.

What do you think of the idea, and how would you approach helping students to stop editing their own creativity? – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBusting Creativity Barriers 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.

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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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Solo-Social-Media-Cover2Speaking at content marketing and social media strategy conferences, I meet many individuals in social media specialist roles handling social and content marketing duties for their companies as one-person departments.

What amazes me is that these are not just people from smaller companies. Even many big brands place all the responsibility for their social and content marketing on a single social media specialist. One study reported, in fact, that 42% of individuals with full-time social media strategy and implementation responsibilities are flying solo.

When you ask a solo social media specialist about the job’s issues, they report a variety of challenges, including:

  • Trying to manage strategy and tactics
  • Being pulled between competing priorities
  • Creating social campaigns that produce business results
  • Lack of time
  • Producing enough content
  • Lack of budget

For a solo social media specialist to work effectively, it’s important to know ways to save time, increase focus, improve performance, boost efficiency, and create more productive content.

If your time, attention, and dollars are stretched thin carrying out your brand’s social media strategy by yourself, you need to download the new eBook from The Brainzooming Group, “3 Principles for a Thriving One-Person Social Team.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Keys to Thriving as a Solo Social Media Professional

We’ve partnered with The Social Media Strategy Summit to make this FREE eBook available to all our Brainzooming readers. Within the eBook, you will learn actionable ideas to:

  • Use your company’s business strategy to better focus and streamline your content creation
  • Take advantage of “whole brain metrics” to more thoroughly document how your work contributes to success
  • Develop a simple, action-oriented content planner
  • Smart ways to produce and distribute more of the right content in less time
  • Extend your team to motivated, knowledgeable “volunteers” within your organization

If these sound like ideas that will let you do more with greater effectiveness and in much less time, we invite you to download our new eBook TODAY to boost your success and results as a solo social media professional! – Mike Brown

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Keys to Thriving as a Solo Social Media Professional

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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How confident are you in your presentation skills when it comes to making last minute changes to what you had (or maybe DID NOT have) planned for your presentation?

Stephen Lahey (the undefeated number one Brainzooming fan until someone challenges him for the title) and I were discussing the value, impact, and risks of deviating from typical presentation formulas and improvising in front of a live audience.

We both agreed we are not “memorizers” when it comes to delivering presentations. Personally, I often do not know even the first line I will use to start a presentation until thirty seconds before starting. If the emcee for the session happens to say something I can turn into a self-deprecating joke, that will likely replace any other beginning I had in mind.

Conference_Audience

Presentation Skills Tips – 12 Last Minute Presentation Ideas

I will admit a huge preference for improvising during presentations. It’s a way to customize the content on the fly to attempt to make it more relevant based on the feedback and what you’re learning about the audience as the presentation unfolds.

While Stephen was understandably dubious, our conversation prompted me to list these twelve presentation skills tips for relatively safe last minute presentation ideas you can use to customize the content you are delivering for an audience:

  1. Talk to people attending your presentation before it starts and reference the conversations.
  2. Look around the room before you start and notice anything (posters, handouts, signage) left over from previous presentations; incorporate these into your remarks.
  3. Insert a relevant story you would usually share in another presentation, but had not planned during the current one.
  4. Make fun of any foibles you make during the course of the presentation to have some fan at your own expense.
  5. Make a bold physical movement (i.e., jump up, slam a table, fall down, walk out into the room) the audience does not expect.
  6. Ask the group (or an individual) a question and use the response to illustrate (or even challenge) a point you are making.
  7. Pause during your presentation to chat with an audience member about an expression, statement, or action they have done.
  8. Ask an audience member to share a story about the topic you are covering.
  9. Spend more time on something that appears to be resonating with the audience and shorten up other content that might be less relevant.
  10. Skip a few slides that are going to push you past the time you are supposed to speak.
  11. While the audience is working on an exercise or is otherwise distracted, unhide a slide you did not plan to cover and include it in the presentation.
  12. Close the presentation with an emotional story from your life that you have been reluctant to share because it will make you vulnerable.

What do you think? Are you ready to take some more risks with these presentation skills tips?

Go ahead. You will be fine. I promise! – 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.

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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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We’ve written about various brainstorming methods, including brainstorming math before.

As we use the term, “brainstorming math” means taking advantage of the number of people involved in creative thinking, how many people can participate simultaneously, the time available, and the number of ideas various brainstorming methods are likely to yield to gauge how much creative thinking work you can accomplish.

What’s great about brainstorming math is you can not only use it to determine how many ideas will likely to emerge from creative thinking exercises. You can also use it to identify ways to make up time when a creative thinking session falls behind schedule.

Using Brainstorming Math to Save Time

At a customer forum we designed and facilitated for a business-to-business client, we emphasized creating an educational and networking environment for the company’s customers. We also employed various creative thinking exercises throughout the day. Because of waiting for some delayed attendees, we started more than 15 minutes late. During the morning, some segments lasted longer than expected. To adjust our plan for the afternoon, I used brainstorming math as a way to save twenty minutes while still getting everything done we had planned.

Brainstorming-Group-L

Since participants wanted to learn about and from each other, there was an opportunity to have MORE people contributing ideas. We combined two exercises into one (2x faster), creating combo creative thinking exercise where three small groups worked simultaneously (3x more work getting done). To increase the networking impact, participants rotated among groups to increase the interaction potential. As a result, we completed all the creative thinking exercises we expected to complete and caught up all the time by mid-afternoon.

If you’re facilitating group creative thinking exercises, always keep brainstorming math top of mind. Use it correctly, and you can develop more ideas in less time or the same number of ideas in much less time than you originally planned.

No matter how you cut it, brainstorming math is a great way to save time!  Mike Brown

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

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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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How “wild and crazy” should you be in using creative thinking exercises? And do you need to be more or less wild and crazy in teaching creative thinking to a group?

The short answer is, “It depends.”

Orange-Squeeze-Toy

Creative Thinking Exercises without Wild and Crazy

Sometimes, the right answer is not being very wild and crazy at all – not even one little bit.

At least that was the answer during one strategic planning session we were leading back in the B2B, Fortune 500 transportation and logistics days. While onsite with one of our subsidiaries, a Senior VP called me over to talk with the subsidiary’s president before we started working on the annual plan. He plainly and sternly said, “I don’t want any funny business.” I assured him our approach was to “work,” but at some point, there might be a little funny business. Since we needed his agreement to work with his team, we didn’t put out any toys. We started by facilitating a relatively staid strategic planning development process. No toys, few jokes, and a clear focus on being all business instead of wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

As the group relaxed during the day, however, we put out a few squeeze balls. They soon started flinging them at one another.  We introduced the “What’s It Like” creative thinking exercise to help them see how their trucking brand was JUST LIKE Ritz-Carlton. Most importantly, at the day’s end, the president said it was “good” and invited us back the next year.

Net result? We were very successful with hardly any wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

Our Most Wild and Crazy Creative Thinking Exercise

Contrast that with a recent “Doing New with Less” workshop in the heavily regulated financial services industry. One might expect it to be completely serious without any extreme creativity.

It was, but only partially.

We didn’t put out toys at the half-day workshop’s start. There were no funny slides or typical sight gags to begin. By the end of the workshop, however, we dove headlong into the “Shrimp” creative thinking exercise.

When done well, Shrimp is one of our most outrageous, wild and crazy creative thinking exercises. It pushes participants to initially generate trouble-inducing, extreme creativity ideas that we then scale back to reality.

And the financial services marketers embraced their extreme creativity.

Among the trouble-inducing ideas they imagined initially were psychic economists, Chippendale dancers delivering financial reports, a high school musical to communicate annual performance to individual investors, and giving people scratch cards to discover how lucky they’d be in securing an interest rate.

They turned these wild ideas into a new positioning for their chief economist, new ways to deliver financial updates to clients via a group event, and a simple decision tree to identify interest rate categories.

All this from a wild and crazy creative thinking exercise we rarely teach in workshops because groups aren’t THAT ready for extreme creativity.

Extreme Creativity All Depends

The important thing to remember is, however, wild and crazy is simply an ingredient in creative thinking, NOT its sole purpose. You can call us crazy, but that is why we think “how wild and crazy to be” depends completely on the group, the situations, and what our client wants to achieve. Mike Brown

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

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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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