It's the time of year when companies turn attention to strategic and annual business planning. Several times while giving strategic thinking and innovation training presentations the past few weeks on "Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation," I've been asked:

"Who should participate in successful strategic thinking and planning efforts?"

My answer is always the same:

You need to have three types of people involved for successful strategic thinking and planning. Getting diverse perspectives involved is of primary importance in business success.

The three types of critical thinking perspectives vital to great strategic thinking, planning, and implementation are:

  • People with Frontline Business Experience - This includes operations, sales, customer service, and any other areas with P&L responsibility or close customer interaction. They provide a solid view of what's going on in the business, what the business issues and opportunities are with customers and competitors, and what important strategy areas require attention.
  • People with Functional Expertise - Leaders in support areas of the business should bring insights into strengths, weaknesses, and key opportunities for important business processes including marketing, human resources, information technology, accounting, finance, etc.
  • People with a Creative / Innovative Orientation - These people, regardless of foreknowledge of a strategy effort's focus or experience inside a company, are adept at looking at business, industry, and organizational situations in unconventional ways.

These three groups are all important to include because they tend to see and react to situations from very different perspectives. This intermingling of viewpoints is vital to the best strategic plans.

So what happens if you involve only people with one of these perspectives?

  • Frontline business people, left to their own in planning, tend to come up with more conventional and incremental strategies. Because they're so close to a company's operations, there can be a real reluctance to stretch capabilities adequately to address emerging marketplace issues.
  • If only functional experts are involved, you're liable to get great process ideas and strategies which improve the internal workings of a business but may not have the necessary impact on the organization's business results.
  • And involving only creative people in planning?  Trust me, you'll generate really cool, incredible ideas, but too often, there is no way to actually bring them to the market successfully.

The net of all this is for the strongest strategic plan, you need to find ways to include people with each of these perspectives. The challenge is it's very often difficult for these three groups to work together successfully and productively. That's where we've designed and use The Brainzooming Group strategy development approach which allows people with each of these points of view to actively and quickly build on the ideas of others to create strong, implementable plans. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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