… then it’s thinking that ultimately leads to success or failure.
But what kind of thinking is the most effective kind of thinking for long-term success? What kind of thinking separates itself from the ordinary, immediate, everyday thinking and looks beyond, through, and into the deeper, bigger, more profound issues? Though certainly all thinking has its usefulness, strategic thinking is the kind of thinking that (as compared to tactical thinking) will most distinguish business professionals from the rest of the crowd.
Because there can be some ambiguity in the two terms, let’s look for a moment at some examples to show the difference between strategic thinking and tactical thinking:
Characteristics of tactical thinking:
- Day-to-day actions or operations
- Short-term concern
- Understanding what to do something
- Physical, tangible
- Doing things right
- Tools for the trip
- What gets placed into the structure
Characteristics of strategic thinking:
- Central common vision or organizing statement
- Long-term concern
- Understand why to do
- Mental, conceptual
- Doing the right thing
The most significant differences in these two modes of thinking can be found in the central organizing statement: what’s the goal, purpose, message, lesson learned, conclusion, or plan? The uniqueness of strategic thinking and the reason it is so crucial to success is that it focuses on the long term, the motivation behind an idea, the why behind the what and how. Here are some practical ways to apply the benefits of strategic thinking.
Sort the significant from the trivial
Once you understand the overriding principle of why (the emphasis of strategic thinking), other concerns (including those things listed under tactical thinking) fall into place. For example, once you understand the central common vision, the day-to-day activities are more comprehendible and attainable. And the person is more likely to be motivated in the process.
Think of the last time you heard the president address the country on an important issue, like tax reform or healthcare. He doesn’t explain the issue in the most intricate details possible. Instead, he lays out a strategy regarding the issue he’s going to tackle.
Or when you hear the Secretary of Defense tell you which military units in which countries have been trained on which weapons. Instead of going into mind-numbing detail, the Secretary will likely tell his audience of the growing threat in a certain country and what measures are being taken there. Both speakers have a strategic message to deliver and refuse to get sidetracked on tactical details.
Know how to sift the significant from the myriad of data you have at hand. Your reputation rests on what you choose to say, how you allocate your time, and what information you decide to distribute.
Adjust your zoom lens
Consider the zoom lens on your camera. You can zoom in and get a close look at specific detail but be so close that you miss the bigger context and can’t make sense of what you’re seeing. Zoom out and see the big picture and you may miss the details and subtleties that would give you a more accurate sense of the subject.
If you’ve ever hired a professional photographer for an important occasion, like a wedding or graduation, then you know they’ll shoot hundreds of photos to end up with forty or fifty usable ones. Close-ups catch the emotion, excitement, and energy. Wide shots capture the context and relationships. Both are important.
Savvy thinkers don’t let themselves get stuck with only one view available. They keep adjusting their lenses to see the object from all vantage points. Then they decide to take action.
The emphasis of strategic thinking is not just to become a better thinker, but to use that thinking and convert it into quality communications so you can clearly articulate your thoughts to others.
In Part Two of this series, we’ll look at more examples of how strategic thinking can add to your effectiveness as a business communicator.
Sources: “Creating Personal Presence” by Dianna Booher