In broad sense, strategic thinking is the process of coming up with ideas in order to reach goals. Still, there isn’t one ‘right’ way to describe strategic thinking. One view is that it is one part of larger strategy creation and execution:
- Strategic thinking (out-think competitors): What could be done and why?
Problem analysis, stakeholder involvement, innovation, exploring possible futures, hypothesis, criticism, testing.
- Strategic planning (out-plan): How could it be done? Analysis and synthesis creating a strategy.
- Analysis: Gather the dots
- Synthesis: Connect the dots
- Operational planning: How to put the strategy into practice in daily operations?
- Monitoring and reacting (out-maneuver): Measuring that the strategy has a desired effect. Keeping an eye on new opportunities. Reacting by iterating or pivoting.
Attributes of good strategic thinking
What to do and which skills to have, to be a good strategic thinker?
- Perspective of the whole value creation system from one end to another, and one’s role in it.
- Focused attention
- Bridge the gap between current reality and future plans (Scenario planning)
- Responsiveness to new opportunities and seeking them, even when they are not part of the current strategy. Be creative and open to new ideas.
- Be critical:
- Question everything (including yourself), challenge current conventions and uncovers biases,
- Test assumptions
- Try to find the root of problems
- Good decision-making process:
- Interpret information from multiple sources
- Make a balanced decision (on time, quality, rigor) on the crux of the matter
- Move on (avoid analysis paralysis)
- Align conflicting views, even on tough issues
- Learn by interpreting feedback, debriefing and reflecting, and use the lessons to improve or pivot
How to interpret and think better
Thinking revolves around gathering data and making new interpretations based on it. But how to test the reliability of the interpretations?
- Make a list of assumptions that have to be true for your interpretation to be correct (the first principles). Organize them from the easiest to resolve to the hardest.
- Look at the data: does it support the assumptions? Also look out for biases in the data, think broadly and challenge your perspective.
- Get information about the assumptions from (three) different viewpoints. Talk with people with different views and backgrounds. Use scenario planning.
- If an assumption is not supported, rethink your interpretation.