Let’s face it, it can be pretty frustrating when you propose an idea during a brainstorming session and get hit with an “it needs to be more strategic”. What is ‘strategic thinking’? Despite being a term so broadly defined and recklessly thrown around without much insight into what its actual meaning is, “strategic thinking” is a highly-valued skill in any role, level, or organization.
Strategic thinking is the ability to think on a big and small scale, long and short term. Both into the past, present and future. When applied in an organizational strategic management process, strategic thinking involves the generation and application of practical business insights to identify and capitalize on opportunities to benefit your company.
When you find yourself plunged into the depths of a project with multiple variables and considerations to take into account, keep calm. Identify your target outcome, the relevant obstacles and challenges, and the resources that are available to you. Then take a moment to consider the variables that may impact them.
Some questions that can be useful to in helping you to devise a suitable strategy:
Once you’ve taken the time to carefully analyse the situation, it’s time to clarify what success looks like. This is where you drill down on the overarching goal in order to understand what the details look like. If your target outcome is the forest, defining success would be to identify the trees that make up that forest.
For instance, your goal may be to get in shape or deliver a new website for a client. That’s great, but let’s go deeper. What does getting in shape mean to you? Or, what does the client want to achieve with their website?
These are important considerations to have. Having the big picture in mind is key, but do keep in mind that it is the details that will guide you on your path to success.
It’s time to step back, open your mind and ears, and start to explore the possibilities. Whether working alone or in a group, you need to make time to let your mind run wild. Unleash your creativity and reach out to others for ideas, input and inspiration with these four principles of brainstorming:
Brainstorming is an important bridge between the initial stages of strategy development, to the actual execution of the final plan. Not only do these sessions allow people to work collaboratively towards solving problems and generating innovative ideas without fear of judgement, it also helps team members feel more comfortable bouncing ideas off one another. Through getting ideas out into the world where they can be expanded upon, refined, and put into action, you can take your business to a whole new level.
Now that you’ve evaluated your situation, defined what success looks like and brainstormed on the possibilities, it’s time to organize all of this work and use it to formulate a plan. Remember, when creating your plan the most important element to keep at the top-of-mind is to ensure that it is executable. If your plan isn’t a plan of action, it won’t be of much use to you. So set your milestones and take the time required to define your step-by-step plans to reach them.
Time to put that plan of action into practice. As you work towards your goal, remember to reflect, listen and pivot as you go. This keeps things moving forward while avoiding getting sidetracked by variables that weren’t part of your plan. Even the best-laid plans are bound to face unexpected roadblocks and diversions at any point in the execution process. That said, you must also resist the temptation to change course at every point of resistance because too many pivots will land you in a spiral. Forward progression is key, so go forth and don’t look back!
Strategic thinking may help business owners determine how to use their resources in the most effective manner to achieve the company’s objectives. It can also veer a management team towards focusing on the markets that are most likely to succeed. Regardless of your role, the tips above are applicable to elevate your day-to-day processes and decision-making.
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