If possible, I engage the audience near the start of a presentation by asking their expectations for our time together. Beyond pre-planning with an event organizer, letting audience members voice their content preferences (and then trying to cover the strategic thinking exercises that deliver on their expectations) gives them a stake in the presentation.

Asking the question at a recent strategic thinking workshop, one participant said he expected to hear "empirical evidence on how the brain works." I wrote down his expectation, turned to him, and said, "You may be the person who will leave here today VERY disappointed." We confirmed this possibility moments later when he also said he expected to learn what the future held after the 2016 election. Unfortunately, that was not on the list of things I could answer either. It did, however, prompt me to unhide several slides covering our Black Swan strategic thinking exercise.

What Works with Your Brain?

Relative to the request for brain research factoids, he did hit a weak spot in my worldview.


While empirical research is interesting, we are focused on creating tools and processes that deliver results based on workplace experience. While I can't say exactly how someone's brain waves behave when you ask them to develop a smart organizational and market strategy, we have hundreds of experiences demonstrating how specific strategic thinking exercises, asked in a particular order, and visualized in a certain way, work compared to other options we might use.

We also continually experiment to see if new possibilities will work better than what we have been doing previously. Sometimes we create those variations ourselves. Often, the variations originate in client requests and constraints based on their organizational realities. In other cases, we go out of our way to try what we do in new settings with new types of participants. This further expands our understanding of how to help small and large groups work together more effectively and successfully.

If you are deep into brain performance research or have a favorite article summarizing how the brain functions when thinking about business and market strategy, send me your links. Just yesterday, Tanner Christensen shared this brain and creative thinking skills link on Twitter, which led to this one, and this one. We will incorporate what we can glean from this material along with all our experience and experiments to shape future Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises.

Plus, if I run into my workshop friend again, I will be ready to meet his expectations for creative thinking skills documentation!  - Mike Brown

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