There is, not surprisingly, a lot of activity on the Brainzooming blog on strategic thinking exercises since they are vital elements in effective strategic planning. As The Brainzooming Group looks at it, strategic thinking exercises are devices to help individuals or teams imagine and address ways to advance organizations / products / programs toward important goals.

What are the characteristics of the best strategic thinking exercises?

Here are six characteristics we design into the strategic thinking exercises we create for strategic planning engagements with clients.

They all need to:

1. Allow everyone to participate – even those with little or no direct experience

We preach the importance of multiple thinking perspectives in developing great strategy. We know some people who participate in strategic planning will have less experience than other participants will. Great exercises, however, accommodate these differences in experience and do not leave anyone without a role based on what they know or have done.

2. Incorporate emotion

It does not necessarily matter which emotion strategic thinking exercises incorporate. It could be fear, angst, frustration, humor, hope, or passion. Or another emotion. Or some combination of all of those. If your strategy development only depends on logic and does not incorporate emotion, you are missing something.

3. Require people to think atypically

If everyone comes into and leaves a set of strategic thinking exercises without having thought in new ways, there is a major disconnect. There needs to be specific variables built in to ensure people are thinking along new paths and in ways they have not had to consider previously.

4. Introduce a strategic twist that doesn’t match expectations or reality

If you want different perspectives from your current strategy, strategy and brainstorming questions need to go beyond simply what the current situation looks like. They should incorporate an unexpected twist or thinking detour to make participants feel uncomfortable with their standard way of thinking.

5. Create new questions

The more you attempt to answer strategy and brainstorming questions, the more new questions will emerge. Strategic thinking is about exploration. If it’s fruitful exploration, you’re going to uncover strategic paths that will be laden with new questions.

6. Leave room for unanswered issues

This goes along with triggering new questions. Successful strategic thinking exercises can’t be expected to answer everything. The future isn’t certain. The objective should be to consider as many possibilities as possible, even if some, or even many of them, can’t be completely answered right away.

Want examples of our favorite strategic thinking exercises?

Here are some of our go-to strategy exercises and brainstorming questions. We invite you to look at how these could fit into your strategic planning and innovation work:

As usual, they all carry our standard disclaimer: “These exercises appear easier to use then they really are.”

If you want the best results from them, you need to call The Brainzooming Group! When we’re on the case, we’ll guarantee these exercises will be successful as part of your innovation or strategic planning! - Mike Brown

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