Are You a Strategic Thinker?
Are you using strategic thinking to build a sustainable business? Or are you “up to your neck in alligators” and can’t squeeze in time to think beyond the next brushfire? While having so much work to do is usually a good problem (providing it is generating revenue to pay your bills), not having time to think about the “big picture” or your next steps can result in your downfall. The marketplace could change while you are “too busy.” Or you could miss opportunities for even more success.
Last week’s post included this definition of strategic thinking:
- Think of “strategic” as something of high value, related to the strategy of your business/life, and essential to success.
- Strategic thinking is the ability to generate and analyze concepts, ideas, and plans that are essential to your business’s long-term success (or your life.)
Reasons to Use Strategic Thinking
Strategic thinking is the ability to think about possibilities without letting limitations or barriers interfere with your thought process. Strategic thinking is a mindset that focuses on creating your future. It can be used as part of a strategic planning process or integrated into your ongoing business management. Strategic thinking helps you:
- Move your business to the future
- Be proactive rather than reactive during times of change
- Identify and evaluate new opportunities
- Analyze your market research and assess trends
- Keep an open mind
- Gain clarity and focus
Characteristics of Strategic Thinkers
Are you a strategic thinker? Consider each of the following characteristics of strategic thinkers. Then assess your own style, personality, innate strengths, and performance to determine your propensity for strategic thinking.
Strategic thinkers are:
- Willing to leave their comfort zone (Are you?)
- Able to deal with complexity and uncertainty. They can hold two or more opposing ideas in their mind at the same time. They are comfortable thinking of multiple possibilities. (Can you?)
- Able to focus on the long-term. They are visionaries who can easily and in great detail describe the future they want to create. (Can you?)
- Systems thinkers. Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. An ecological system is a good example. Systems thinkers are good at seeing the relationships between the item and the other elements of the system. (Are you?)
- Focusing on the big picture. They don’t ignore the details and short-term picture; they simply prefer to focus on the big picture.
- Good at using leveraging. They build teams to get things done. They find ways to do more with what they already have.
- Analytical but also creative. They find unique ways to think about things and creative ways to make money.
- Likely to challenge assumptions. Being able to ask questions, ask for clarification, ask about the source of information is highly beneficial to your business.
- Able to differentiate between symptoms and root causes. They focus on addressing the root cause, not the symptom, thereby reducing the exposure to risk.
Innate or Learned
Some people are strategic thinkers because of their innate strengths. We all have natural innate strengths and thinking styles. In fact, there are 16 profiles of innate thinking styles, but that’s a topic for another column.
Can you learn to become a strategic thinker if it is not part of your innate strengths? Yes, but it will take some work and practice. Some of the skills you will need to develop are the ability to:
- Make decisions. This sounds simple but can be difficult.
- Analyze information, determine what is fact, opinion or fiction.
- Understand the difference between the “ends” and the “means.” You will need to stay focused on the end result and not get bogged down in the minutia or detailed action steps.
- Think about cause and effect and the related consequences
- Be a visionary
- Be mentally flexible
- Be comfortable with complex and ambiguous information
- Willing to explore innovative possibilities
Take Action Now
- Assess your capacity for strategic thinking.
- Use strategic thinking to determine how you will adapt or adjust your business in response to trends in your marketplace.
- Identify at least two trends that could affect your business.
- Write a “scenario” of how the trend could affect your business and how you could be proactive, respond, modify your approach, etc.
If you need any help, just send me an email at Judy@CenterForStrategicChange.com. I’ll be happy to answer your questions.
Start developing your long-term mindset today by setting long-term goals and focusing on the process of achieving them. Embrace uncertainty and take calculated. Download my Guide to Strategic Planning™ to help you learn more about thinking long-term about your strategy and how the strategic planning process can help you clarify your short-term and long-term goals.