In the previous blog, we examined some of the differences between strategic and critical thinking. And while critical thinking is important for daily activities and to keep every day processes ongoing, it’s strategic thinking that will allow you to “see beyond” the ordinary and immediate and look further ahead.
We also discussed how strategic thinking allows you to cut through the clutter and see what is most essential. It also allows you to adjust your mental lens to go back and forth between micro and macro views of facts and information to capture the overall big picture.
And if you can transform that strategic thinking into quality communication, especially in business situations, it’s a game changer for your company and your career. Here are some other benefits to strategic thinking and how they can help you succeed:
Ask why not?
Although there’s no clear-cut, all-inclusive definition of strategic thinking, most would agree that strategic thinking focuses on the why and what if not the what and how of critical thinking. Why did that person come to that conclusion? What if we decided to do things differently to get a different, better result?
Why not go one step further to focus on the why not, look at what others are doing, and focus in the opposite direction? Why not do things differently? This isn’t an attempt at being contrary for the sake of attention, but to generate thinking about streamlining processes, take advantage of new opportunities, and raise out-of-the-box, provocative, alternative ideas.
When reporting on a problem, the tactical thinker will tell how he corrected a current situation or what is wrong with the vision, idea, or plan. The strategic thinker will tell how she will circumvent the problem altogether or take advantage of opportunities the “problem” created.
Practice input before output
Strategic thinkers—and those who eventually make it to upper management—rarely rush to judgement of people, situations, and data. They make it a practice to listen first, to observe, to collect, and to assess information.
Also, strategic thinkers stay alert, take in ample information, and think before they speak. Those with less patience and perspective are less diligent in gathering information, quick to speak their mind, and often regret their output.
Ask thought-provoking questions
Executive management teams insist that a key value that advisory boards offer is asking the right questions to guide thinking and prevent future missteps. Effective consultants provide their clients the same service. They go into an organization, listen to the situations and plans, analyze data, and ask questions. Their value most often lies not in merely the answers they give but often more importantly in the questions they ask.
Inventors stumble upon new processes and new products because they have great curiosity and continually ask others or themselves provocative questions and then go on to discover or develop answers. The more provocative the question, generally the deeper and more impactful the solutions that will come forward.
Make sure your writing reflects your thinking
In their autobiographies, Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, and Lee Iacocca, legendary chairman and CEO of Chrysler, insist that one of the key reasons for asking subordinates to submit reports was to see how they thought. They wanted to see how well they could make a case for this or that course of action. Such reports served as their platforms or “tryouts” for promotions.
On the downside: it’s possible to think strategically but still not communicate well on paper because you haven’t developed your writing skills. People may hear you say something and then days later forget how well or how poorly you expressed your ideas. When you write, however, your thinking is captured permanently for all to see. Consider the critical importance of excellent writing skills as a snapshot of strategic thinking.
Strategic thinking uniquely positions you as the go-to person for sharp focus, sound problem analysis, and innovative ideas. It’s not that tactical thinking is unnecessary. On the contrary, day-to-day execution of business plans and goals demand tactical thinking but is vastly more common among your colleagues.
And typically, it’s the strategic thinkers who are rising to the top and making the greatest impact.
Sources: “Creating Personal Presence” by Dianna Booher