Learning to Think Strategically
Everyone within an organisation plays a part in its overall success; strategic thinking is no exception. Too often, it’s wrongly assumed that only executives and leads can think strategically when the truth of the matter is far more complex – developing this skill set should be seen as essential for all levels of staff. Strategic planning initiatives are crucial to business growth and must never be overlooked or underestimated.
Becoming strategically minded is a key component to unlocking long-term success. Gaining this skillset will be invaluable in helping you stay ahead of the competition, both professionally and personally.
How Do You Define Strategic Thinking?
Strategic thinkers have a knack for excellence. They will assess decisions through intelligent, insightful analysis and cultivate solutions that provide impactful results. Future-focused with an enterprising spirit, they strive to find ways of improving outcomes while simultaneously looking ahead towards further successes.
Qualities Characterise a Strategic Thinker
In order to think strategically and display a strategic mindset, you must:
- Be creative and think beyond the usual.
Have the courage to look beyond conventions and make fresh connections. Re-examine your thoughts from new angles past restrictive procedures, strategies or worn ideas so that you can explore creative solutions unburdened by preconceptions.
Developing a habit of exploring outside the box solutions for problems or goals can help foster an atmosphere of open-mindedness. Start by pushing yourself to explore past that initial solution and search for alternative options. Even if nothing better is found, you’ll train your mind to cultivate creative thinking!
- Continue to ask questions.
Develop a habit of inquisitiveness – don’t settle for the surface answer. Whether it looks like you have reached an explanation or solution, push further by continuing to ask “why?” and encourage yourself not to stop until reaching a deeper understanding. Think about your inner child who is curious and eager for answers; let that enthusiasm motivate going beyond the basics in order to gain knowledge from this experience which will become ingrained within your thought process over time.
- Keep up to date and be knowledgeable.
Unlock the power of staying ahead with an overview of the market from your desk. Gain a comprehensive understanding beyond your firm through trends, customer behaviour and competitor performance. Reap profits instead of missing out on opportunities by adapting to changes quickly rather than being caught off guard or outdone by competitors in meetings. Achieve success now!
- Come up with ideas.
To unlock creativity and produce breakthrough ideas, building knowledge is essential. As Steve Jobs famously said, ‘innovation comes from the ability to connect things’ – so surrounding yourself with diverse sources of information will bring forth an abundance of concepts for you to explore! To truly become a powerful source for idea generation: research key trends in your market; absorb all types of media; observe industry developments intently. Do this and soon enough you’ll be off creating amazing solutions!
Reflect on your business and customer needs to uncover areas of opportunity. Brainstorm ways you can optimise, expand or streamline to best meet the demands of the market.
To reach your goals, kickstart the creative thought process by using strategic tools such as SWOT and SOAR. These frameworks can provide insight into your organisation’s strengths or weaknesses; comparisons of these elements to potential opportunities can help you generate ideas that fuel success!
Thinking Strategically For Competitive Advantage
We have a hard time understanding why we did something and so really it is through researching and understanding how the brain works makes its decisions. There’s an opportunity with testing and observational research is really valuable there.
Its really important when you’re thinking about big strategic moves to think about competitors. At the basic level, if you if you think about why you are creating a big strategic move in the first place. When you ask most companies “why undertake this big effort to come up with this strategy?” etc. It’s like “ oh, to gain an advantage in the market” if it’s not going to affect them and effect on the market, it’s not that big of a deal anyway.
You’re starting with the presumption that we’re going to come up with a new strategy that is going to have an effect on the market. And then to assume that our competitors are not going to react that they’re just going to sit there and say, “Wow, that was a brilliant move”.
Even if it’s about it’s a growth market, and we’re trying to grow in a growth market. Your competitors see you growing faster than them, they’re going to say, “Well, why are they growing faster, we need to grow faster”. So at a surface level strategy is about thinking about how you position yourself relative to competitors.
Strategy has changed. It’s about platforms and ecosystems and partnerships. It’s not cut throat competitive market. Its true that there are these different relationships that companies are forming with each other, but you are still as a collective creating value which you are then competing with each other to capture that value. It’s a competition. Everything has some level aspect to it. And you have to think about your competitors, even if they’re not purely a competitor. There are always other companies out there trying to take what you have and if you do not think about what other companies are doing or other actors in the ecosystem and marketer doing you’re setting yourself up for running to a brick wall. That’s never going to be good.
Take a competitor for example: every business leader is taught and told, you need to find a unique differentiating niche you need to find customer segments that no one’s going after. This is all about finding that area no one else is doing and differentiating it to make it unique and innovating etc. If every company is doing that every company should be making different choices. You should expect your competitors to be making different choices and not the same choices you make. And the second point here, if they’re doing something that you don’t like because it’s not good for your business. Well, again, that’s what competition is about. They’re not going to make choices which are good for you. They’re going to make choices which are good for them.
Look into what have they been publishing what have they been sending? What have they said at conferences, what have they said in the news? What have they said in their press releases, etc?
Look into the background of your Senior competitors enough that you can find out what that person’s background is. Ask yourself “do they have a marketing background or an operations background?” or “Do they always work in this industry? Or do they come from a different industry?” Find out what was their educational background etc. Because once you frame what their background is, you can start to understand how they view the world. Many people just want to make it through and they just want to survive in business and that’s where a lot of the power comes in to understanding the person behind making the decision.
This framework can make you the predictions is that it doesn’t require a lot of time. It doesn’t take months and months and months of effort. Particularly if you think someone who left an organisation to start up a new company, you have lots of insight already, and you’ve probably hired other people away from other consulting firms to start up your own firm. They have insight into other consulting firms that they used to work at. And in an hour and a half, two hours, you can sit down and just go through the steps to understand your competition.
David Alssema is a Body Language Expert and Motivational Speaker. As a performer in the personal development industry in Australia he has introduced and created new ways to inspire, motivate and develop individuals.
David Alssema started his training career with companies such as Telstra and Optus Communications, and then developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) within workplace training as principal of Paramount Training & Development.
As an author/media consultant on body language and professional development David has influenced workplaces across Australia. He contributes to Media such as The West Australian, ABC Radio, Australian Magazines and other Australia Media Sources.