Make the most of your strategy ideation workshops: do not rely on big words and sticky notes

If you read this post, it means that you are interested in better expressing your leadersip.

The common mistake clever leaders make is the belief that strategy retreats will help them define their vision and mission, leading to the next version of their business. They typically trust that filling frameworks with words on sticky notes will unfold their strategy and build the foundations for future communications.

Ideation phases on sticky notes are great for mapping and clarifying values, options, directions, and paths, but they also give you the illusion of expressing your leadership. They create the illusion that speaking based from that work will trigger a clear representation of your ideas and motivate staff to take action.

If you want to make the most of your strategic sessions, you need to consider that no single word can capture your ideas’ full breath or essence. The words you write down in the moment are not sufficient to reactivate the full idea in your mind later, and they are not enough to turn that idea into a consistent narration that sounds like an inspirational speech.

Have you ever experienced this?

You reopen an ideation session weeks later and, staring at all those words, you find it hard to retrieve what conclusion, message, or takeaway you came up with in your work. Nothing comes to your mind that resembles the brilliant ideas and clear messages of your discussions.

No single word captures the complete representation of your mission, vision, milestones, or drive, and no single word will prompt you to deliver an inspiring speech.

The root cause is that we capture our ideas by writing down single words or short word combinations. We do this when we read (highlighting keywords) and listen (extracting the main words). And when preparing to deliver a presentation, we also focus on memorising a sequence of … single words. This relates to how we focus and extract information, the limited short-term memory capacity, and how we store information in our brains.

When I facilitate ideation work with my client, we make the most of our sessions by recording short improvisations or conversation moments to unveil some of our thinking around those big words. We do this every time we feel we reach something interesting. This will help enormously prepare us to communicate later.

After all, every presentation is a collage of past conversations. Every aha moment is in the unfolding process of a idea.

Defining strategies for a transformation or a new direction takes time and effort, so we focus on expressing clear leadership messages more than filling frameworks with words.

This works!

It is liberating because you do something natural (shifting from thinking to speaking and writing) and have created a small first draft ready to be tested.

When you find the words that reveal the best of your thinking, magic happens: You feel aligned and calm and speak with a more profound conviction. You’ll be able to invite others to follow.

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