Strategic Thinking Changes Your World. Isn’t It Time You Began?
Step back and take a broad look at your business – the aerial view. Look at the industry you play in and the consumer environment. Identify your focus, define your playing field. Anticipate moves and plan your win-win approach and decide what is needed to get there.
When you are a strategic thinker, you never pay attention to just one detail. You want to see the overall goal and the details of how you are going to get there. By looking at all sides of the equation, you encourage your brain to think more wholly rather than in parts.
Are You a Strategic Thinker?
Strategic thinkers often ask themselves key questions like:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- How will we get there?
One of the beneficial qualities of strategic thinking is innovation. It’s the ability to see emerging conditions that could provide long term advantages. To never be content with leaving something as is, to be continuously improving and looking for the next niche to fill or mountain to climb. This ability to be innovative keeps you headed in the direction of success towards your goals.
Strategic thinkers never make assumptions; they instead ask the right questions that help them intuitively make sense of the chaos. They make informed, bias-free decisions and remain open to all possibilities. Strategic thinkers already know they don’t know everything. To make better use of your skills and to make better decisions, you have to be ready to challenge what you think you know. Strategic Thinkers never close their minds to anything.
Strategic thinkers are concerned more with results and consequences. They can develop strategies and execute them, as well. They know how to get things done today but have the foresight to plan for the future.
It Starts with a Plan
A strategic thinker puts plans into action. You need to make decisions and then stand by them. Anytime you are dealing with the idea of making decisions and carrying out plans to completion, you are using strategic thinking. When you think things through strategically, you’ve got the best chance of success with your goal or project.
An essential part of this process is cause and effect. Understanding cause and effect is incredibly important to make more informed choices. Cause and effect thinking looks at any situation and asks you to theorize what happens if you make a particular choice and whether this outcome is favorable or not. Getting in the habit of thinking through every decision you make with cause and effect in mind helps you to take your thinking to the next level and serves you well regardless of what question you’re applying this methodology too.
Be More Prepared
It’s not only Boy Scouts who should be prepared. When it comes to strategic thinking, you need to think ahead. Ask yourself, would you rather be reactive or be proactive?
For example, decide how you will handle the next tantrum your toddler throws now before it happens. Read some parenting blogs or books to find out what other people recommend and then determine what tactics would work best for your child. Try different ones until you find the one that works for your situation.
I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.
Where are you right now…really? The strategic thinker knows how to run a quick check, somewhat like taking inventory, to see where they are in the grand scheme of things. Think of it like you would a computer running a diagnostic. This quick look examines the progress you’ve made. It asks where you are in the process and whether you’re still moving toward your goal.
Visualizing the end goal in as much detail as possible aids in your efforts toward strategic thinking by helping to clarify your objectives. Picture various forms of the future. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10? Add in varying obstacles and how you will overcome them. Revisit this vision often and evaluate where you are.
Consider the short- and long-term implications and consequences. Anticipate industry changes, threats, and opportunities and adjust your goals accordingly.
Maybe, as in the last example, your child doesn’t respond well to any of the suggestions you implemented. Don’t give up. Go back and do more research or take a look at the recommendations you discounted earlier.
Benefits of Strategic Thinking
The importance of strategic thinking goes beyond business and organization to include individual growth and success. There are numerous benefits of strategic thinking. It helps you plan, become efficient, increases strengths, and create direct paths to achieve your objective. The audience members listen to the speaker who has a well thought out plan. Practicing strategic thinking gives you the influence so others will listen and follow you.
Strategic thinking makes difficult things more straightforward and more easily understood. It allows you to take complex issues or long-term objectives that can be difficult to tackle and breaks them into manageable sizes.
With strategic thinking, you will ask the right questions, such as:
✔ Direction: What should we do next? Why should it be next? Do we need to break the process down into smaller tasks/goals?
✔ Organization: Who is responsible for what? Who is responsible for whom? Do we have the right people in the right places?
✔ Cash: What is our projected income, expense, net? Can we afford it? How can we afford it?
✔ Tracking: Are we on target? What is the initial target goal? What can we do to increase the results? What is the contingency plan?
✔ Overall Evaluation: Are we achieving the quality we expect and demand of ourselves? Are we missing an element?
✔ Refinement: How can we be more productive and more efficient? What adjustments can we make to do a better job?
Develop Your Strategic Thinking
“We are what we do, day by day. So, excellence is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
Can strategic thinking be taught? In short, Yes. Anyone can develop the skill and practice it competently. From the top executives of an organization to the mother of young kids, strategic thinking is a skill that helps you succeed in whatever activity you are involved.
To think strategically means to see and to be able to understand the bigger picture of where you need to go. Then you need to take the necessary steps to achieve the associated goals.
You can develop strategic thinking in different ways, but it begins with changing your mindset.
“We can make and break our habits” - Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Below are some simple exercises that teach and discipline the mind to think in different ways:
- Do something you have never done before. It can be something as simple as taking a different route to work. Observe everything along the way. Then describe the experience on paper, writing down what you discovered.
- Ask a question about something unusual. Your goal isn’t to get information but instead to invite analysis. Try to answer it without looking for the answer. Make hypotheses. Then find the answer. For example: Why are there five fingers on each hand?
- Do role-playing. Think of someone you admire and try to emulate how this person would think and act. Then during the day, behave as if you were that person. Describe what you discovered at the end of the day.
- Learn to prioritize tasks. Decide which tasks can wait by asking yourself, “What is the one task I can do today that will have the best results?”
- Improve your listening skills and keep an open mind. Be receptive to feedback and evaluate everything you hear.
- Along the same lines, get better at your questioning skills - question everything you see or hear. Don’t be cynical, but instead collect and weigh facts without dismissing ideas or traditions.
- Observe and seek out trends. Routinely explore and integrate the internal trends happening around you. Pay attention to repeated issues and the obstacles you face.
Strategic thinking is a skill that you can hone and apply to virtually any activity. It’s a skill that helps you plan and reach your goals. It enables you to think in an orderly way and plan for the future.
With strategic thinking in your arsenal, you’ll do a lot less reacting. Instead, you’ll be planning, thinking, and doing the things that matter most to you, and your life will run much more smoothly. You will examine the options, see solutions others don’t, and anticipate your next move wisely. You will accomplish more and be less stressed.
You will find yourself using these skills to change the outcome of your life. It all begins with a hard look at where you are, and a desire to become more, to accomplish things, to achieve something so grand you might have thought it impossible.
Strategic thinking changes your world. Isn’t it time you began?