Strategic thinking refers to generating and applying unique business opportunities and insights with the purpose of creating a competitive advantage for an organization or company. When thinking about it, many people imagine it refers only to individual decisions, when in fact it can refer to a collaboration between key people as well. Today we are going to see a couple of tips and tricks that are useful for whoever wants to improve their strategic thinking, inside or outside a company.
How to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills
1. Understand the Context
No decision can be strategic if you don’t get the big picture in your industry. As such, one of the first steps, if you want to improve this skill, is to pay attention to the trends, the industry context, and the business drivers. Make a habit out of exploring and synthesizing the internal trends in your work. Don’t be afraid to connect to peers in the entire industry and share valuable insights and information. Lastly, try to understand the perspective you have in your position and see what impact you can make.
2. Ask Questions
What you need to do is to start asking questions. How can you broaden your horizon? What areas can be improved in your work? Try to see things from different angles. When you don’t know what to do, simply ask around. The more you ask detailed questions, the more your coworkers or bosses will appreciate your strategic thinking, especially if you think about outcomes and avoiding failures.
3. Prioritize and Sequence Your Thinking
This skill may sound complicated, and that’s because it really is. A strategic thinker knows how to order the thoughts that appear in their mind. Learn how to structure your communication, whether it’s oral or in writing. In this way, your audience will understand better what message you’re putting across. If you don’t know how to do this, it’s better to start with baby steps. Group and order the main points you want to make. It’s essential to be as succinct as you can, and don’t forget to support your arguments with examples.
4. Develop Your Creative Skills
Many people think strategy has nothing to do with creativity. However, there is a strong connection between the creative side of your brain and the strategic skills you have. Creating a new vision, imagining potential outcomes or coming up with solutions are all tasks that require your imagination.
5. Be Flexible
If you want to be strategic, you must be flexible. Especially when it comes to business, as a strategic thinker you need to adapt to various conditions if you want to survive on the market. A good trick if you don’t know how to do this is to include benchmarks in your plans so that you can review your progress. This helps you assess your efforts and see what needs to be changed. There is an ongoing debate regarding strategy vs tactics, and if you read on the topic, you will see that flexibility is a must when it comes to this.
6. Start Observing More
People who want to improve their strategic thinking need to be more observant. Try to see subtle clues, both internal and external, that can help you guide your efforts. Pay attention to what people are communicating, and not just orally. Sometimes, body language can be more important than we think. At the same time, put it all in perspective: what did your boss mean by what they said? Are things as they said? Try to analyze things on your own as well.
7. Learn from Your Mistakes
We all know how uncomfortable it is when you make a mistake. And when it comes to business, a mistake can be fatal for a company. However, when you accept that you made a mistake, it’s important to critically analyze it as well. Why did things turn out like that? What could you do to improve them? In this way, you can avoid repeating the mistake in the future.
8. Take Some Time for Yourself
Though it may sound odd, it’s important to take some time for yourself as well. How can you improve your strategic thinking if you don’t set aside any thinking time? Your brain needs to refresh from time to time, which is why a walk in a park, a brief trip in nature or a long bath will provide you the right moments to boost your thinking. A good strategic thinker isn’t connected all the time to the problems they have, but they understand it’s important to give yourself a break occasionally.
9. Accept Advice from Others
Just as it’s important to accept your mistakes, it’s important to accept that others can give you good advice as well. Strategic thinking also means recognizing the leaders in your field and learning from them. It’s even better if you manage to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them yourself. For this reason, you can read about them, try to know more about their accomplishments, their mindset, experience, education, etc. Luckily, there are plenty of autobiographies and books that can help you out.
10. Don’t Judge
This one is perhaps the skill that’s hardest to achieve. Any kind of judgment you impose on others only makes you be restricted. Try to think as freely as you can and don’t let stereotypes get in your way of knowing other people better. A limited thinking can be counterproductive in a brainstorming session, for example. This is one of the moments when you need to consider the ideas proposed without being too judgmental. Who knows, maybe the solution to your problem is obscured by a stereotype you’re using in your thinking.
To draw a conclusion, we can say it’s not an impossible goal to improve your strategic thinking. However, you do need a lot of patience and time if you are keen on becoming a good strategic thinker. Among others, you will need to work on your creativity, curiosity, analytical skills, and flexibility. It involves a lot of hard work, but in the end, the results will be crucial for your business and/or career. Remember to practice these skills daily and learn from the leaders in your field.
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