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Welcome to the Monthly Business Smoke Break with Robert Grossman of Grappling Hook. Each month we’re going to hang out, chat and hopefully, you will walk away with an easy to use tool that helps you in your business.

It sounds like you’ve got some balls in the air right now and you’re future-minded. You’re working the blue oceans. That’s really awesome. It means that you’re thinking about how to have an edge and how to stay flexible in what you’re doing. You’re smart enough to not compete.

Some of those blue ocean ideas you’ve got are killers. I know it. You know it. So, what are your first steps to making those happen? Have you ever written a Challenge Statement? It’s a way to continue moving into those clear waters. You know how it is if you don’t write it things down? It changes. Like playing Telephone in elementary school. This tool will help to eliminate some of that. It’s there for you when your course starts to wander.

A Challenge Statement is a question that represents the direction your team has agreed to go in. That simple. It’s not too vague and it’s not too detailed. It’s loose enough to deal with an idea while providing some structure. Like determining where you’re aiming your cloud when you exhale.

After having helped run a community-focused start-up called MoBo until it was old enough to not be a start-up, I can tell you that this tool helps. I wish we had used it at the beginning when half our organization thought we were heading towards one direction as a club while the other half was thinking we were a community and educational resource. It was more than two years before we came together and worked this out. It cost us a lot of time, energy and some hurt feelings. Once we worked it out, we were far more effective as an organization and as individual team members. We had sat down together and agreed on the direction to aim ourselves, and after we did, we had less divergent ideas about what we were doing. Enough so that we found ourselves moving into a larger storefront two years later with a customer/membership base that had more than doubled.

OK, get your brain on. Get your team. Grab a coffee or tea.

Got ‘em?  Good. Let’s do this.

Step One: Everyone get a piece of paper and a pen

Two pieces of paper if they write big. This is a group exercise. If you are a team of one, do this on your own.

Step Two: Write “How might we…” and follow it with what your primary challenge is

Easy peasy. Keep your answers to yourselves for now. Don’t spend much time on this. Two minutes at the most. Just write it out without worrying too much about being perfect.

Ex. “How might we create a special line of memory pieces that we can tie to events?”

Step Three: Write “How might we…” again and follow it with a highly detailed version

Make it as detailed as you can for what you envision for one sentence. This may take an extra minute or two. Don’t think too hard about it, though.

Ex. “How might we produce multiple lines of classy products for women that are special to an annual event and evoke pleasant memories of time with friends without being cheesy?”  

Step Four: Now do a vague version

You have a minute. Go!

Ex. “How might we release a line of products tied to tourism?”

Good work. Seven more sentences to go!

Step Five: Write it different ways in between vague and detailed

Starting the sentence now with “HMW…” Rewrite what you think the challenge is using different words and playing with what direction to take it. You can totally be creative and silly with it. It is just paper. Give yourself ten minutes max. That’s about the length three good songs playing in the background.

Ex. “HMW design a special product line tied to tourism events?

HMW work the tourism industry to release a new line targeted to them?

HMW create a market for special memories pieces?

HMW tie our products in with tourism and travel?

HMW build more business by creating a line of pieces that are specially designed for travel?

HMW move into a blue ocean of tourism-related products?

HMW rock a special line of products that are specially designed for good memories of experiences?”

And so on….

See where I’m going with this?

Step Six: Pick the best statement

Go through your list and pick the three statements that best represent what direction your challenge needs to go while providing some wiggle room. Now pick the best one. You can also choose to rewrite a new one based on a blend of your top sentences.

Step Seven: Everyone share their chosen statements

If you’re a team, this step is for you. Feel free to discuss it as a group so that each person has an opportunity to explain where they are coming from.

Step Eight: Vote!

Everyone gets to choose which statement they feel best represents the direction your team should move in. You may realize that it makes sense to take the top choices and mix and match words to rewrite a whole new statement together.

Step Nine: Display it!

Put the statement where everyone can and will see it. Let them comment on it.

As the project evolves feel free to readdress your challenge statement.

This will help you all get off the ground together in the same general direction. And it’s written down so there’s less of that telephone game going on as you make your moves. If you need some tunes to time yourself to then add some of this hot sauce to your nachos.

Breaks over. Back to it. I’m looking forward to hearing about what you’re working on. See you next month.

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