You may know the terms “outside of the box thinking”, “creative thinking” and “lifelong learning”. These phrases are synonymous with having an open mind, a desire to understand and innovate, and a constant drive to know more. When someone with these traits is also logical, great at communicating, and goal oriented, they are an exceptional strategic thinker.
What is Strategic Thinking?
Changing how you think can have a profound effect on the success of your company and the impact of your marketing. Strategic thinking is all about refining your thought processes in order to develop effective solutions to current problems and generate innovative and productive ideas for the future. Harvard Business School outlines the main components of strategic thinking with four skill sets: analytical, communication, problem-solving, and planning and management.
Long term, strategic thinking can improve the framework of your business, increase the effectiveness of your teams, and lead to better idea generation. Learning strategic thinking skills can also help you get better at short term or quick decision making, so that choices made under pressure feel like less of a gamble.
How to Get Better at Thinking Strategically
A solution that worked in the past might not work for the problem you’re facing today, so it’s imperative to look at every new issue in an unbiased way. This doesn’t mean you should disregard the valuable information that you’ve learned when executing tasks in the past, but being open minded about the possible differences in your current situation is essential.
This is especially important in the world of business, as external factors are constantly changing, including technology, the economy, and consumer preferences and reactions. Strategic thinking means allowing yourself and your team to adapt to these external factors in a way that provides the most value to your business.
To prevent rigid thinking and avoid relying on assumptions or personal bias to make decisions that might seem good at the time, try gathering as much information as possible before making conclusions or acting on an idea.
Communication and Metacognition
Listening skills are an important part of strategic thinking. It may seem like it’s not that hard to listen, but it is often natural to react to new information as opposed to taking the time to thoroughly consider it. For example, if someone enters a discussion or a meeting with preconceived notions and imposes their point of view upon it, it becomes difficult to take other perspectives into account. Listening closely to employees, team members, and customers can provide an in-depth and unbiased view on the current strengths and weaknesses of your company and the effectiveness of your marketing and other operations.
Strategic thinking is also about asking questions. This includes questioning yourself during the processes of idea generation, decision making, and strategic planning. Is there any information that you’re missing, and is the information you do have both factual and representative of the issue at hand?
Metacognition, or thinking about your own thoughts, is a crucial part of strategic thinking. Being able to pinpoint where a certain thought came from and deciding if it’s logical and pertinent will make you a better leader and allow you to get better insight into your thought processes.
Implementing Strategic Thinking
In addition to practicing flexible thinking, information gathering, communication skills, and metacognition, there are some concrete tools you can use to ensure your ideas, planning, and execution are being done strategically.
One idea analysis technique outlined by Fraser Dove is based on the acronym PIES:
- Potential: What is the potential for positive change?
- Importance: If you receive the desired outcome, how valuable is it to you?
- Ease: What would it take to get the desired results?
- Score: Once you rate your ideas or solutions using this framework, you can come up with a score to help you determine which ideas are the most impactful.
Using analysis methods such as PEST and SWOT can help you track and plan for external factors that might have an effect on your business as well as determine the strengths and weaknesses of your business internally.
Using these analysis frameworks on a frequent basis can give you invaluable insight into your business’s position in the market and help you track progress on company goals and objectives. Additionally, practicing structured strategic thinking can make you a better decision maker under pressure.
The Bottom Line...
In the end, the goal of strategic thinking is to make better informed decisions. This includes putting effort into the ideas that will actually have a positive impact as well as being better-equipped to deal with fluctuations in company goals, internal operations, and external factors.
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “the only constant in life is change.” Though this is often used as general insight into the facts of life, it applies just as well to the constantly changing environment of business. Strategic thinking can help you not only be prepared for change, but allow you to see change as an opportunity instead of a hindrance.
To get a template on Applying Strategic Frameworks and to learn more about how changing the way you think can push your business forward, sign up for a free preview lesson of the Madak Guide covering strategic thinking.