Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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Need to challenge your team to being imagining the future, realizing it may look hardly anything like today?

Originating in a long-term future visioning exercise we designed and facilitated for a client, we developed these questions to prompt a group’s thinking about dramatic future change. The point was to push them to consider the future as something other than a trend line based on yesterday and today.

Strategic Thinking Questions to Imagine a Radically Different Future

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Once you provide hypotheses on what you suspect the future will be like in your market, these strategic thinking questions are productive to reinforce dramatic changes ahead.

Ask the team (whether individually or in small groups), what if our future were:

  1. Seemingly magical?
  2. Totally surprising and unexpected at every turn?
  3. Unbelievably scary and threatening?
  4. All about only addressing exceptions from what was expected?
  5. Totally automated and run by robots?
  6. Rapid fire?
  7. Filled with data at every turn?
  8. Devoid of personal, face-to-face communication?
  9. Run by 125-year old people that haven’t reached retirement age yet?
  10. Run by 16-year-olds with 10x more intellectual horsepower, knowledge, experience, and energy than people five times their age?
  11. Playing out fine with no need for human involvement?
  12. Completely unpredictable?
  13. Unlike ANYTHING we have known so far?

Coupled with other exercises to envision a radically different future, these strategic thinking questions, all rooted in projected trends, will help push the group to consider new perspectives you need to prepare to address. – Mike Brown

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What personal success strategies do high performers employ to get and stay ahead in business?

Morton T. Hansen, a business professor at the University of California, Berkley, tackles that question in a new book: Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. (affiliate link)

According to Hansen’s article about the book in The Wall Street Journal, and based on a multi-year study of five thousand business people, the key difference in personal success strategies is the ability to be selective in taking on priorities and activities. High performers narrow the range of assignments they address and pour themselves into initiatives with intensity.

Four Personal Success Strategies for High Performers

Hansen lists four behaviors and perspectives to support selectivity for high performers:

  1. Reducing and simplifying activities
  2. Making specific trade-offs relative to new priorities
  3. Basing their work around value creation
  4. Innovating work process through varied strategies

These four personal success strategies provide a menu from which to improve your personal and team performance.

1. Simplifying Processes and Activities

Hansen discusses simplification and doing as few things as possible as important success factors. As he describes the strategy, it entails doing, “as few (things) as you can, as many as you must.”

One way to separate activities and priorities that deserve attention from those that don’t is through determining:

  • How much ability you possess to change something
  • The degree to which there is a return associated with a positive change.

Being able to make a big change with a significant return suggests an initiative to prioritize. To operationalize the strategy, we employ these questions:

  • Who is this initiative very important to, and how do they reward high performance?
  • Who would notice the impact of ignoring this?
  • At what point will the standards of everyone that matters already have been surpassed?

Within an organizational setting, there is a tendency to over-engineer simple. The simple way to simplify is to aim for as few moving parts as possible.

2. Making Trade-Offs with New Priorities

High performers are aggressive reprioritizers. In the face of new assignments and expectations, they say yes to the right things and no to things that will distract them and reduce performance.

One effective way to prioritize is to force yourself to make yes and no decisions. You can accomplish this by writing all your potential priorities on individual sticky notes. Place them on a wall or desk and select two priorities and compare them. Ask, “If I could only accomplish one of these priorities, which one is more important?” Place the priority you selected at the top of the wall or desk, with the other, lesser priority below.

Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is a more important priority, it goes on top, and the other moves down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

This simple model provides a quick prioritization to help determine which priorities warrant focus when everything seems important.

3. Focusing on Value Creation

Concentrating on high-value-creation activities is another element setting high performers apart from others. Instead of checking every box on a to-do list, these individuals concentrate on activities where they can deliver the greatest value for internal and/or external customers.

Part of understanding value creation is being in touch with customers to stay abreast of how THEY perceive and prioritize value. Absent this knowledge, you run the risk of spending time and attention on activities of lesser importance.

We recommend asking three questions to identify value opportunities. You may answer them yourself, but they take on tremendous importance when those you serve provide input, so we encourage you to ask them, too.

  1. What do I deliver that provides tremendous value for others?
  2. What do I deliver that doesn’t provide real value for others?
  3. What do I focus on that has the potential for tremendous value, but falls short because of too little attention or focus?

Answers to the first and second questions should re-confirm the priorities from the previous trade-off exercise. Answers to the third question highlight areas that perhaps can become priorities through eliminating the distractions you identify in question two.

4. Innovating Processes

Hansen found that one way high-performing individuals add value is through improving processes that lead to high performance for others. You can use the priorities providing tremendous value as a starting point to look for innovation opportunities to enhance value to upstream and downstream individuals in your work processes.

For those upstream in the process, think through the view, style, and expertise this person will put into the work product for which you’ll assume responsibility. Identify where you can provide actionable feedback to better coordinate the activities between you.

For those after you in a process, identify what they expect from you. How can you anticipate what they may struggle with to help them work through challenging parts more successfully?

Enhancing Your Personal Success Strategy

Based on Hansen’s work, simplifying, prioritizing, maximizing value, and innovating are vital personal success strategies to lead you to high performance. Does that match your formula? – via Inside the Executive Suite

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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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We’ve written about the importance of signaling collaboration strategy preferences when you and team members are working remotely. Even with video conferencing, you lose many of the verbal and physical cues available when you are sitting across a table planning who is going to do what and when on a project.

Talking with someone who is struggling with identifying the best ways to signal the appropriate collaboration strategy approash, we hit on a variation on the Sergio Zyman decision levels. We talk about Zyman’s decision delegation approach frequently to help leaders and teams figure work better.

Rather than addressing who will provide input and who will make decisions (as the Zyman model does), this collaboration strategy revolves around who will start developing ideas and how the collaboration will unfold within the team.

A 5-Level Collaboration Strategy Approach

Via Shutterstock

Here are five possibilities:

  • L – The Leader will figure it out
  • LT – The Leader will start developing ideas, then will collaborate with the entire Team to figure it out
  • C – The leader and team will Collaborate from scratch to figure it out
  • TL – The Team (or a team member) will start developing ideas and then bring them to the Leader to collaborate and ultimately figure it out
  • T – The Team (or team member) will figure it out and bring the finished product back to the team leader

This collaboration strategy idea is still in the Brainzooming R&D lab. The situations and acronyms for this collaboration strategy approach may change.

Do you have thoughts, reactions, or alternatives? Please share them on our Facebook page. If we have big insights from trying it ourselves, we’ll pass those along, too. – Mike Brown

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Before an impending purge of The Wall Street Journal back issues in my office, I reviewed an article from a late December 2017 issue: The New Age of Bespoke Travel. The article, by Nina Sovich, details how certain travel agents have reinvented themselves to compete when online trip planning now dominates over help from actual travel agents.

Photo by Dmitry Sovyak on Unsplash

The article inspired a laundry list of strategic thinking exercise prompts to re-imagine a threatened business model when your service offering is under assault from online offerings, bots, or some other form of complete automation.

A New Strategic Thinking Exercise

Here is how we see this new strategic thinking exercise coming together.

First, detail all the elements of your current service offering. Afterward, re-imagine what you could offer based on these generalized strategic moves travel agents are implementing successfully:

Customer Focus

Extraordinary Customer Service

  • Provide mega-personalized customer service
  • Offer 24/7 availability and assured communication WHENEVER the customer wants it
  • Remove EVERY worry customers in your market harbor
  • Remove ALL complexity before, during, and after your service
  • Establish unquestioned trust in your performance
  • Provide intense troubleshooting for ANY problems that arise – whether related to your actions or not

Amazing Expertise and Experiences

  • Develop and offer COMPLETE knowledge of your category
  • Offer highly-detailed upfront planning, customized for each client
  • Share more potential ideas / options than anyone would imagine
  • Create exclusive access to incredible experiences
  • Address customer needs outside the typical service boundaries your competitors adhere to
  • Design unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities
  • Integrate high-value, unique partnerships into the service offering

New Pricing Structures

  • Create a subscription-based price with no cost per interaction / service request
  • Establish a high-priced initiation fee and sizable annual spending minimums
  • Create an annual fee with a minimum spending volume beyond the fee

This strategic thinking exercise is straight from the Brainzooming R&D Labs. We don’t have any real-life stories to offer you yet on how it works in practice.

We’re excited about the possibilities of this strategic thinking exercise, though, and will probably try it out first on some Brainzooming service lines. – 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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Since The Brainzooming Group launched, we have developed many strategic thinking exercises and models applying our methodology to diverse clients and business situations.

The result? We are further along and can even more easily customize these strategic thinking exercises to your needs if you face comparable situations. That is a major benefit if you want an outside, strategic perspective and need to start right now!

16 Strategic Thinking Exercises Ready to Go Right Now!

Review this list and identify the business opportunities or challenges that are incorporated in your strategic plans – or not. If any of these are on your agenda for this year, contact us. We can customize the strategic thinking exercises specifically for your organization and start moving even faster than normal!

We are trying to develop new strategies and strengthen our organization’s strategic perspective.

We know we need to use content marketing, but we’re struggling to connect the content to our brand and audience while generating real business returns.

Our focus is on innovation, and we need to bring it to life and create results before we lose interest and move on to the next big strategy.

Any of these opportunities and challenges familiar to you?

Are you under pressure to make one or more of these happen right now?

You owe it to yourself: contact us so we can talk through what you need to accomplish and see if it makes sense to work together.

We can get moving with the strategic thinking exercises and workshop implementation that will deliver results for you faster than you have ever imagined! – Mike Brown

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Who should you invite to participate in an innovation strategy workshop?

We’ve written about three important strategic perspectives (general management, functional expertise, and people with creative energy) and three types of voices (traditional, challenger, and emerging) to include in any type of strategy workshop.

Via Shutterstock

Working with a client to identify potential participants for an innovation strategy workshop, we identified five other participant profiles to expand the workshop diversity:

1. Unafraid People – Individuals that don’t care about what other people think, say, or do relative to their ideas.

2. The Voices of the Organization – People who will be able to share what the organization thinks – whether easy or challenging to hear. These are the individuals that everyone in the organization talks to about their aspirations and concerns.

3. Organizational Reactors – These are the people who, whenever an announcement is made or big news happens, everyone watches to see their expressions and the intensity of whatever emotions they display.

4. Entitled Owners – Individuals within the organization that only support implementation of their own idea and programs. You invite these individuals (in a reasonable numbers) so they feel as if the innovative ideas emerging are their own.

Adding individuals in each of these four groups, we grew the list of potential participants. We still hadn’t accounted for every department or tenure group that needed representation in the innovation strategy workshop. But they were out of people who would provide an innovative perspective.So, we added another potential group of participants:

5. People who won’t do any harm. These are individuals who might not contribute much to new thinking but won’t detract from the innovative thinking of others.

Identifying these five groups pushed us to the diversity we needed to move forward with the innovation strategy workshop.

Which leads to a question YOU will need to answer: Who is in your YOUR innovation strategy workshop?  – Mike Brown

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  • Brand benefits and value propositions
  • Marketing strategies
  • Organizational structures and processes
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Industry and market dynamics
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Disrupting Thinking is the answer to starting the conversations your leadership team needs to have about disrupting your own brand before unexpected competitors do it to you first!

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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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7 Free Gifts that People Won’t Return or Forget by Late January

Finished your holiday shopping? With a long holiday shopping season, you would think that by now all the buying would be behind us.

Yet, advertisements, emails, and online remarketing campaigns demand that we keep shopping throughout the weekend if we are truly going to have positive impacts on our relationships with friends, loved ones, and co-workers. You would think that, without last-minute gifts, everyone will miss out on their hopes and dreams and face a miserable year ahead.

Going a Different Direction

Amid all the signals to buy more, let’s focus on very different gift ideas.

These seven are appropriate for business settings, and you can start (although maybe not fully accomplish) them before January. All are free gifts, which makes them ideal for sharing with others throughout the year.

Cheerleading someone toward bolder aspirations than they have imagined.

We have all been around people with strong talents, solid knowledge, and great attitudes who nevertheless sell themselves short. They face self-doubts or struggle with imagining themselves taking on bigger, higher-impact roles. They are not limited in their abilities, simply in their personal horizons.

If you know someone like this, give them the gift of sharing the potential you see in them. Share how you imagine them displaying their talents on a bigger stage or accomplishing objectives they could never envision for themselves. If this person reports to you, go further; nudge them into bigger opportunities than they would ever personally seek.

Connecting with a person when you suspect he or she might need it most.

You will see media discussions focused on how the holidays are a difficult time for many. As a friend who was undergoing Job-like challenges once put it, “You may never know the private hell someone else is living through.”

People experience challenges beyond the holidays. Even if you regularly and actively do so, listen with your ears, eyes, and (as tough as it may be in the social media world) keyboard. You never know who is living with potentially life-crushing challenges you’d never imagine without listening. If you suspect someone around you is struggling, go out of your way to give them an opening to address or unload about what they are facing.

Telling someone you have not talked to for a long time that you miss them.

A former co-worker once left me a message after a job change, saying she was going through “withdrawal pains” from talking regularly. I saved that message for years and listened to it when I needed a boost.

What is a sincere, upbeat message you could share with someone close to you who has been far away for an extended period? Why do you miss them? What are your hopes for them? Call, and if they answer, you’ve gotten over the hurdle of reconnecting. If you get voice mail, have something already planned that you want to share with them that you suspect will brighten their days for years to come.

Letting someone who’s struggling know they are on the right track.

It is easy for individuals to beat themselves up, particularly at year end, over failing to accomplish goals, progressing as they expected in their careers, or having the family lives they would prefer to enjoy. As an objective observer, you can both acknowledge their frustrations AND see the clear positives in their lives. Can you see and share personal growth or career progress they are making, but are too close or inside their own heads to recognize?

Even if you’re not in a formal mentorship role, reach out to someone in this situation and provide the perspectives to let them know (and then reinforce) where you can see they are moving forward in a positive, beneficial way.

Respecting someone you fundamentally disagree with, even on serious issues.

Discord surrounds us. News channels are filled with argument-based programs. Too many on social media hurl invective and insults as comments on others’ posts. And we are all likely apprehensive about the potential for harsh political conversations at family gatherings this holiday.

Approach holiday events looking for points of agreement with each person. Focus on where you see things comparably, no matter how minor the points where you see eye-to-eye may seem. Concentrate your conversations there, avoiding the acrimony that might otherwise ensue.

Refraining from sharing all your successes when someone needs to hear about your challenges.

Holiday letters are loaded with incredible personal and family accomplishments. Some people reserve that type of success onslaught for an annual letter; others bask in a litany of personal accomplishments whenever you encounter them. Consumed with themselves, they are exhausting for others.

While it’s often easier to report good news, it could be more important with someone not experiencing current success to hear about your challenges. What hasn’t gone well? What aspirations did you surrender and subsequently on from? What survival strategies worked when disaster struck? While success lessons are nice, tips for coping, survival, and rebounding are valuable. Make yourself vulnerable and share those stories.

Deferring a great personal opportunity to someone who is less of a fit, but would benefit more.

The beginning of the year is a time for promotions and new opportunities emerging. As a leader in your company, you may be under consideration for a disproportionate number of these opportunities to contribute, grow, and develop.

If you’ve been richly blessed with these opportunities, look to see who in your organization is deserving or has tremendous potential, yet has been overlooked for comparable assignments. How can you impact these individuals receiving an opportunity earmarked for you that will benefit them dramatically more?

Have a Wonderful Holiday!

Any of these free gifts would be a great way to give something that won’t be forgotten by the end of January! – via Inside the Executive Suite

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and boost your creative thinking skills! 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. Contact 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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