Strategic thinking is an important skill for everyone in the knowledge & the intellect era. Somehow, the idea of ‘strategy’ and ‘strategic thinking’ has developed a mystic aura. People in leadership and ones who aspire to progress in their career continuously, need to hone their strategic abilities.

Strategic thinking is the ability to think on a big and small scale, long and short term, and into the past and the present. Strategic thinking is a valuable skill as you ascend the ladder in any space of expertise or field. In fact, you may have a difficult time being promoted or succeeding as a leader without it. One needs to assess from time to time on how one is mapping oneself in order to apply themselves, to their vision and goals.

Important traits that the strategic thinkers exhibit are holistic view, intuitive about emerging opportunities etc. The Harvard Business Review describes strategic thinking as : “Strategic people create connections between ideas, plans, and people that others fail to see.” The good news is that in a way our brain is built to constantly imbibe strategies, if we are in tune with our ecosystem. Your ability to see nuances, uncover patterns, and synthesize data makes you especially original, creative and suited for strategy. The key to becoming more proficient as a strategic thinker is to learn how to channel your thoughtfulness -intelligence to work for you, instead of against you.

6 Steps to improve Strategic thinking are:

  1. Create MA or thinking space - The Japanese concept of Ma is something that relates to all aspects of life. It has been described as a pause in time, an interval or emptiness in space. Ma is the fundamental time and space life needs to grow. How we spend our time and shape the space we live in directly impacts our progress. These principles are universal, when applied effectively they enhance the way we think and how we engage with our surroundings. An everyday example of Ma can be seen in the respectful Japanese bow. People make a deliberate pause at the end of a bow before they come back up – the reason being, to ensure there is enough ‘Ma’ to convey feeling.It’s impossible to find time to think big-picture when you’re constantly task-switching or if your day is packed with meetings. Delegation with empowerment and authorization may support you in making head space for thinking time. Also moving out any unwanted meetings and freeing your calendar can help.

  2. Prioritization Principle -In life if we are too engrossed in urgent activities we neglect important growth related activities. And if you spend your career reacting to fire-drills, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a reactive cycle of being behind the eight-ball – never proactively in front of it. Best way to create growth is to plan your important -SMART Goals.

  3. Problem Solving Mindset -Strategic thinkers don’t simply highlight problems; they always go a step further to offer a potential solution. They come to the table with proposals and plans for how to take action. They talk in terms of what’s going well, what could be better, and what’s possible – not what’s wrong or deficient. Assuming a solution-oriented approach requires you to get comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. It means lowering the defenses of your inner perfectionist who desperately wants to avoid mistakes and failure.

  4. Questions are Critical to Create -Strategic thinkers challenge their own assumptions and look at challenges from a number of different perspectives before deciding on the best path forward. One great way to do this is with the classic Edward Debono six thinking hats methods.( White Hat: observe facts, Red Hat-lens of feelings, Black Hat: Caution, Yellow Hat: Benefits, Green Hat: Creativity, Blue Hat: Process.)

  5. Being Open to other perspectives - Being open to suggestions -perspectives of others is a great way to absorb new ideas and strategies.. For example, ask your team to come to a brainstorming meeting with three suggestions already formulated. As a leader one needs to ask the right questions and not always be the answer provider. Leaders sometimes are complacent to learn new ways and ideas; as they are too accustomed to old winning strategies. One of the famous books which teach us, that we need to be in path of new learnings is Marshalls book 'What got you here Won't get you there' A book that helps us understand that too much winning can also keep you from being your full potential.

  6. Be Willing to Take Risks - Sometimes we are very risk averse and want to be right in whatever we do. This restricts our potential for growth, as if we are in safe zone, within the horizon of our tested solutions we will never know what potentials hold around us. To be able to take risk is sure way of testing your strategies or decisions and to finetune them.

Do share your ways of enhancing your strategic thinking competency. One of the popular books which has always helped me nurture strategic thinking is HBR Guide Series for Strategic Thinking

You could also register for our online program for Strategic Thinking.

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