What options are there when assembling a leadership team or board of directors who want to do blue sky thinking for big ideas? Seems simple, although delivering on this objective requires deft design to enable a collaboration with a chance of producing big thinking.

A nonprofit executive asked how Brainzooming would approach this request from her organization’s board. The board members want to think big on the heels of the organization wrapping up its current strategic plan.

When Brainzooming starts customizing a collaboration, we shift into design mode. That includes working through varied dimensions based on the organization’s goals. In this instance, we’re exploring three strategic thinking variables:

Perspectives for Enabling Blue Sky Thinking

While people think of blue sky thinking as brainstorming without limits, saying to a group, "Let's think with no limits," rarely leads to big ideas spontaneously appearing. We define blue sky thinking as using structure and focus to enliven breakthrough thinking. That's why we invest time developing the structure and exercises that lead to the desired end result.

If you are faced with a similar request for blue sky thinking, here are are our insights into exploring the three important variables:

1) The Strategic Thinking’s Intended Target

Are they trying to enrich or vary the current strategy, extend the strategy beyond the current time horizon, or explore completely new directions? The point is to be additive to the current strategy without reopening it to counter-productive strategizing.

2) Framing the Thinking Perspectives

Depending on the situation, the group’s thinking can focus on:

  • Deepening the organization’s core
  • Leveraging its capabilities and strengths
  • Expanding its aspirations

It could also take advantage of analogous situations or outside-in perspectives.

If the group wants to be tremendously exploratory, start with nothing off limits and take full advantage of their collective imaginations.

3) Ambitions for the Outcome

Big thinking comes in multiple flavors, including thinking that’s bolder, prioritizes disruption, maximizes dramatic change, focuses on longer-term possibilities, or emphasizes simplicity or elegance.

Beyond the Perspectives for Blue Sky Thinking

Executive Team's Blue Sky Thinking

Other variables to shape the design, include:

There are lots of variables involved in the design. Once we start narrowing the most important ones and making selections, it’s time to move into selecting, customizing, and creating exercises to fulfill the objectives.

Interested in a DIY approach to designing a meeting like this for your executives or board? Our Strategy for Success: Strategic Planning Made Simple ecourse will prepare you with design ideas and exercises.

If you want to have someone else do the heavy design work so you can focus on your day-to-day activities, grab some time with Brainzooming to talk. Let’s chat about the possibilities from collaborating. We’d love to energize the blue sky thinking your team wants to accomplish and make it incredibly productive. – Mike Brown

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