Making Quick Decisions During Strategic Planning - 5 Key Questions

I used to ask weekly on Twitter what strategic or innovation topics people would like to see addressed in Brainzooming articles. One request from back then was to write about how not to over think business strategy. Having been in a business where it seemed you’d hear “don’t over think it” five times a day, the topic hit a little too close to home, and I didn’t ever do a post on it.

Time's Running OUtNow, with a little distance, I offer some strategic thinking questions to ask your team when you need to quickly move into convergent thinking mode during business planning:

  • Does this issue really matter for our business opportunity? Will it materially change any important business results?
  • What if we could only implement one innovative strategy in this situation? What would it be?
  • If we had only 25% of the time (or resources), would we concentrate our efforts on this business opportunity?
  • Without any additional information, what does our experience suggest as the most successful potential business option?
  • If we had to halt our business planning and make a decision in the next five minutes, what would it be?

Couple any of these strategic questions with a fixed amount of time for dialogue (i.e., “We’ll talk about this for 10 minutes) and a required decision (i.e., “When time’s up, you have to briefly state what business decision you’d recommend or the course of action you’d take right now).

You may not get the most rigorously vetted, innovative ideas, but using a strategic thinking exercise and a limited amount of discussion time will help quickly catalyze your strategy decision so you can move to implementation. – 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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10 Responses to “Don’t Overthink It? 5 Key Questions for Quick Decisions”

  1. Great thoughts, Mike. It’s interesting to note that this practice will not lead to the game-changing ideas that will transform your industry. In fact, Google encourages its employees to spend 20% of their time focusing AWAY from these questions – a practice that led to both Gmail and Google News. But I agree that on a daily basis we need to refocus on the current prize, a practice that these questions facilitate nicely.

    BTW, I blogged about this post here:

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Appreciate the comment and the recap on your blog Mitch!

    You’re right in that this approach is about trying to make as smart a decision as possible within a constrained period of time. We’ve seen many instances over the past few years where debate is used to extend discussion without materially improving the thinking. Some people are put off by how quickly we move through strategy development, yet by getting the right thinkers and perspectives involved, our Brainzooming techniques help get issues surfaced and resolved much more quickly than is typical.

  3. How about instead of sitting in a room and debating, frame up a set of parameters and apply the 5x5x5 rule. (This was described by Micahel Schrage n his book Serious Play. The 5x5x5 method is deceptively simple and straightforward: You give 5 people no more than 5 days to come up with a diversified portfolio of 5 ‘business experiments’ that should take no longer than 5 weeks to run and cost no more than $5000 to implement. It’s powerful yet doesn’t require people to be geniuses or push organizations to invest inordinate sums of time or money. But by pushing small groups of people to think inside the box-a very unusual and special box with well-crafted constraints -this method makes cost-effective innovation not just possible but probable.

  4. Mike Brown says:

    Annalie – Thanks for the original prompting and for the 5x5x5 suggestion. Your comment hits on the important point that constraints aren’t inhibitors to innovation, but often are crticial in spurring dramatically new ways of thinking about a situation.



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