Strategic Thinking – Improve Your Thinking…and Your Business
What is Strategic Thinking?
Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. It’s true that many of us employ habitual patterns of thinking when we are looking for solutions or planning projects. We assume that what worked in the past will work again and what previously failed will also fail in the future. Our thinking methods are forged by experience and repetition.
Whilst using our experience to guide us is useful, is this really how we achieve the optimum results possible from every situation? Is there a better way to approach planning, decide on future goals and formulate effective means of achieving them? If you recognise that your patterns of thinking usually follow the same structure, strategic thinking could help you up your game.
Strategic thinking fundamentals include looking at the broader picture, generating plausible options, making decisions and planning the required actions. All strategic thinking focuses on the future, the long-term effects of the current circumstances and the decisions made. Looking at how your organisation interacts with other organisations and the external environment is part of a strategic thinking process. Taking time to think deeply about all the issues that may impact a situation and the people involved is also important.
Sometimes, simply asking the question, “Is there a different way we can do this?” can generate useful ideas and encourage both creativity and innovation. Remember that not everyone sees things the way that you do, everyone filters information in a different way. By encouraging those around you to share their views and opinions, even if these may differ greatly from your own, you gain valuable insight. The best strategic thinkers are often those people who ask the most questions about themselves, other people and their organisations.
Strategic thinking is about reflecting and considering every option as deeply as possible. In a busy work environment, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘fire fighting’ every day as different problems arise that require immediate solutions. By learning how to employ strategic thinking, you can ‘do less yet achieve more’.
How Can Strategic Thinking Help You?
Using strategic thinking can help you to learn more about everything around you. You will understand why certain events and problems occur and how to control outcomes by gaining a deeper understanding of their components.
Strategic thinking allows you to feel more ‘in control’ of circumstances. It gives you confidence in the direction in which your organisation is heading – and why you are taking certain paths.
Interpersonal relationships play a large part in the success, or failure, of any project. Changing your method of thinking enables you to consider the bigger picture and how each individual involved may contribute positively, or cause detriment. This means you’ll manage teams more effectively and enable your staff to meet their full potential and contribute the maximum possible to the organisation.
If you find that unexpected problems often arise, people react in ways you didn’t anticipate or plans fail due to unforeseen circumstances, consider using strategic thinking to improve these issues.
How to Change to Strategic Thinking
It’s natural to repeat patterns in the way that we work. It can even sound daunting to consider changing the way you actually think. However, strategic thinking is simple to implement and, with conscious practice and self-awareness, can have a hugely beneficial impact on your projects. Become mindful of how you actually think and come to your decisions. Consider the following suggestions:
- Think about the BIG picture. Look at your organisation as an overall landscape seen from 10,000 feet above. Look at every area – what is working and where are the problems?
- Employ systems thinking. Examine the interrelationships between elements. How do certain people impact other people? How do decisions made in one department affect another?
- Recognise patterns. Look at the cause and effect patterns in your organisation. Maximise patterns that are positive and eliminate those that are not.
- Always look to the future. Consider any emerging trends that may have influence, become aware of any future legislations that may apply. What might your customers need in the future that they’re not even aware of today?
- Generate as many options as possible. Define multiple options to reach goals and choose the best. Brainstorm those around you for their opinions and suggestions. Look at what your competitors are doing – is there something they’re doing that you’re not, which may bring you benefit?
- Be motivated by success and encourage others to strive to win. Ask what defines your success, what factors drive success and how will you measure the success you have achieved?
- Balance proactivity with reflection. Most good leaders are proactive, yet to think strategically, you must allow yourself time to reflect. This provides new insights and ideas for direction.
Finally, it’s a great idea to keep abreast of the most successful people and organisations, even those not involved in your specific industry. Look at what they are doing and ask yourself if you can adapt their methods for your organisation.
Strategic thinking can help you save time and be more successful. It isn’t difficult, it’s just a question of continually ensuring that you follow the best strategical thinking practices. If you’re a chess player, you’ll understand that the whole game is about strategy. If you don’t play chess, perhaps taking it up might be something to consider!