In this episode, we will review the important concept of strategic thinking and its applicability in the business world and strategic decision making.
At work and also in our personal lives, we’re often asked to think strategically in order to improve our decision making. But what exactly is strategic thinking? Is it just another management buzzword, or does it really have any merit?
Before we try to understand strategic thinking, let’s first review the concept of its counterpart, which is referred to as conventional thinking. Conventional thinkers like to draw between the lines established by others. In other words, they stay inside their “boxes” and thus there is little in terms of creativity involved in thinking through conventional means. Within the context of our work in organizations, conventional thinking offers limited opportunities as improvements are mostly incremental. Based on the nature of the competitive environment that we have, we need something more creative and transformational in terms of how we think and create solutions.
And that’s where we get into the concept of strategic thinking. Strategic thinkers have a much larger, more creative, and forward-thinking framework. This type of thinking doesn’t just solve immediate problems: it also expands the organization’s possibilities and has the potential for more breakthrough solutions.
Due to its scope of being deep and broad, strategic thinking involves targeted research, large-scale thinking, and forces on to step out of the box to bring fresh perspectives.
Strategic thinking is typically used as a corporate management tool for formulating promising long-term strategies. Its benefits in a corporate setting are obvious because of the complex problems where its usually used. It requires a joint effort from different experts from multiple domains. But although it’s traditionally associated with corporate planning, strategic thinking is equally useful for smaller organizations, especially in situations where more rigorous, creative thinking and targeted action are needed to solve the problem. Relying solely on conventional thinking and techniques will probably not yield optimal results in such cases.
Aside from solving problems, strategic thinking can result in key insights that can then result in intelligent organizational decisions, which in turn can lead the organization into new and promising directions. Business literature contains many ideas on this type of thinking, but for those of us who are unfamiliar with it, here’s a simplified model that’s relevant to all levels of organizational planning and problem solving. You can use these following 4 steps to think strategically and use the ideas to advance your business.
* Define the strategic problem or issue– In business and organizations, we are all required to work on and solve strategic problems. A problem is strategic in nature if it prevents you from achieving your desired business outcomes and benefits. In cases like this, it’s best to resist the temptation to use conventional thinking, which really means that instead of jumping in and automatically trying to devise potential solutions, try taking a step back and first define the problem. This will not only help to give you a sense of the scope of the problem but will also highlight any underlying complexities. Whether the issue involves a company division, a particular department, or a specific program, clearly defining the problem goes hand in hand with imagining your desired outcome before you can take the action steps needed to create the future condition and results. The output of this step is a clear definition of the problem and any other constraints that stand in the way of your desired outcome.
* Formulate your problem’s ecosystem– Once you’ve defined the problem, the next step is to map out its