One significant key to asking productive questions that Brainzooming strongly recommends?

Do NOT ask the expected question.

Expected questions are built to generate expected answers. Asking unexpected questions, though, opens space for fresh thinking.

For example, we rarely ask executives in strategy meetings what the critical success factors (CSF) are to successfully implement a plan. When you do that, people respond with answers they’d thought about before they even started thinking about the question you just asked. You waste valuable time capturing what everyone already knows or strongly suspects.

Getting to Critical Success Factors

Instead, we use an exercise called Cash or Crash. Sometimes we call it Success or Stress. Or, Make It or Break It.

No matter the name, we’ve been using this two-question exercise since Brainzooming was still a corporate strategic planning department. I don’t recall if Cash or Crash originated with Brainzooming or we adapted it from a creative thinking book. If we did pull it from somewhere else, I’d love to give the originator credit because it’s an amazingly productive exercise.

In the exercise, we establish two scenarios, both three years after launching the new strategy.

  • In the first scenario, the plan has produced positive results far beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations. Everything led to wild success. In a for profit setting, the strategy’s success is generating all kinds of Cash.
  • In the alternative, the plan has fallen far short of even humble expectations. Nothing has gone right. It’s a #massivefail. All the original hopes and dreams are Crashed.

The fundamental question for both scenarios is the same: What occurred both in and out of our control to make this particular outcome happen?


What Makes this CSF Exercise Soooooo Productive?

What makes this critical success factors twist so productive?

The answers that executives share for what happened invariably:

Those answers can fill in lots of holes as you develop a strategy plan.

If we place Cash or Crash questions in a survey, we can generate sufficient responses to begin ranking critical success factor categories, too. This leads to a next exercise that assesses impact and probability.

Yes, Cash or Crash is like our version of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. No matter how we use it, it’s going to show up during a Brainzooming show nearly every time!  – Mike Brown

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