This week’s activity, the second in the series of the twelve gifts of 2018, which are a mini-taster of my Idea Time programme, is all about exploring your BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) a bit more. 

If you read last week’s blog and did the activity, you will have used the expression “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if…?” as a spring board to shape an outline statement of definition of one of your BHAGs for 2018. 

A BHAG is simply a stretching, challenging and yet achievable goal that you can achieve with focus and by thinking differently. Although they may not use the same term, most people in business have BHAGs that are about growing or improving their company, or their own leadership and personal learning and development. 

Over the coming weeks, we will be focusing on how to leverage your business brainpower to help you to progress your BHAG, starting now with one of the most famous of all creative questions: 

“What if…?” 

I was lucky enough to co-facilitate some Customer Experience strategy design sprints with some wonderful people recently. One of my co-facilitators, the super-talented Eddie Wrigley, of Northumbrian Water, reminded me just how powerful the What if…? idea generation technique can be. 

The What if…? technique is an absolute classic – and one that I don’t think we use enough in our day-to-day business thinking. 

The technique works because it: 

  • Expands our thinking by asking a question. 
  • Helps us to imagine something that is different from how things are now. 
  • Gives us ‘permission’ to stretch and play with ideas. 
  • Provides breadth of opportunity and focus at the same time. 

It’s a beautifully simple technique to use as well. Here’s an outline of how you could use the ‘What if..?’ technique. 

 

Step 1: 

For your BHAG, imagine a stretching ‘What if…? scenario. It can be as big and hairy or as pragmatic as you like!

A big, hairy example is: ‘What if we were the first business to trade completely from space?’ 

A pragmatic example is: ‘What if we had no internet connection in our business for 24 hours?’ 

As long as it starts with ‘What if’, is in the form of a question, and is pretty different from what happens now, it is likely to help you generate some ideas. 

 

Step 2: 

Then assume that your ‘What if…?’ statement is actually the case, and you need to do something to respond to it.

Scribble down as many thoughts as you can on how you might solve it, making sure that you avoid any premature evaluation!  

Just let the thoughts flow and write them down. You can sort out the useful ones from the less useful ones later as a separate stage in the process. You might want to set a timer for 3, 5, 10 or 15 minutes (or whatever) to make it more fun and keep focused.

 

Step 3: 

When you have finished, or your time is up, go back over what you have written and highlight anything that you think might be useful. Challenge yourself at this stage to make sure that you’re not overly-constraining or limiting yourself.

 

Step 4: 

Now write down how you can practically adapt your thoughts to apply them for real to help you achieve your goals. 

That’s it! You can also do this in small groups or teams. 

 

Try doing the four steps above for some of these questions to help you explore your BHAG a bit more. Pick the one(s) most relevant to you, of course, or create your own. These are designed to get you thinking! 

 

  • What if my biggest customer announced massive international growth plans? 
  • What if my greatest competitor (personal, professional or business) disappeared. How would I make the most of it? 
  • What if I could be made into a hologram and be in several places at once? 
  • What if I had no choice but to permanently do my job from my favourite holiday destination? 
  • What if I could be in my most resourceful state more often. What would that look like? 
  • What if a story I’ve created in my mind is holding me back. What is it, and why? 
  • What if I could bring some of the things that give me joy into your BHAG. What are they, and how could I do this? 
  • What if I had to describe my BHAG to a five year-old child. What would I say? 

 

I love the ‘What if…’ idea generation cards from the Board of Innovation to help stretch strategic thinking. You can download them for free here. The 52 cards provide four main starting points for innovation: 

  • New Technology 
  • Regulation 
  • Customers or Societal trends 
  • Market 

(Thank you Eddie for pointing me to these great cards!) 

 

I also have also created a pack of 52 ‘What if…’ question playing cards for people to use individually, in pairs or teams. These cards have been designed specifically to help Idea Time workshop delegates explore their BHAGs in a fun and creative way. You can see them in the photos that appear alongside this week’s blog. 

 

I have 5 professional-standard, prototype packs to offer as a special free giveaway. Let me know how you get on with the activity, and I will post a free pack of cards to the first 5 people who email me!  

 

My direct email is jo@bigbangpartnership.co.uk. I will do my best to answer every email (I’ve done the scenario ‘What if I get thousands of emails from this blog?’, so I have a plan! [Symbol]). 

 

More next week! 

 

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