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How to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills in Business Application

Aug 25, 2023

Strategic thinking is part of every business, group, organization, team, and individual-from the biggest corporation to the self-employed independent content creator. None of them would get far without the capacity to think strategically about their combined goals in large-scale and day-to-day operations. Strategic thinking is a vital skill that most successful people are capable of that they have cultivated over a lifetime of personal and professional development. It's part of how they become so successful. The other part is execution, but we'll get there.

How to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills in Business Application

What is Strategic Thinking?

Strategic thinking is the process of intentional and rational thought that helps a person analyze every variable within a situation in order to affect the long-term success of a business, team, or individual. It includes the careful consideration of every variable that might affect the outcome, including potential threats to the success and vulnerabilities you might find along the way.

Many companies employ strategic thinking in their everyday operations to plan for long term projects as well as day to day tasks. For instance, part of the process of strategic thinking is to gather information. It helps to know every possible fact of what's happening before beginning any plan to present information or to create a business plan of any sort. Strategic thinking is all about planning for every variable, so knowing all of the information before you begin, be it opening the company in the first place, or deciding what tasks will further your long-term goals today, will eliminate stress by planning for every possible outcome.

3 Examples of Strategic Thinking in Business

1. Strategic Thinking in Business: Businesses will frequently hold meetings in order to determine their business goals and develop a process to reach those goals by analyzing information gathered to create a narrative that would define the company for a period of time. From here, leaders can plan specific actions with employees that will help accomplish this strategic development.

2. Strategic Thinking in Leadership: Business leaders use strategic thinking in order to decide on what products, or groups of products, they'll offer, what areas of business to compete in, and how their resources will be used, like employees, time, and funds. They decide how to best utilize their employees in order to complete certain objectives within the competitive landscape to protect their other limited resources against unnecessary risk.

3. Strategic Thinking as an Employee: Employees utilize strategic thinking in order to accomplish their everyday tasks. By compiling information and deciding which tasks would best serve to develop the longevity of the company, employees are able to create successful operations with growth in mind.

For every person within a company, their job and tasks will look different. However, there is one defining feature that creates a connection between everyone and that will bring them all back together in the end-and this can be broken down into three questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How will we get there? By continuously considering these questions, business owners, leaders, and employees will always be looking for a way forward.

The Process of Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is such a high value skill that there are entire degree programs devoted specifically to developing it. There is a process to thinking strategically, and specific steps you can follow that help cultivate this skill in order to make yourself a valuable asset to the company structure. That process begins with gathering information.

Gathering Information: Gathering information is a way of compiling every bit of knowledge you have on a situation. It contributes to the overall well-being of your strategic thinking process in order to create the best outcome possible. In this phase, it's important to consider every variable, such as time, place, subject matter, timeline of events, etc. In creating presentations for a company meeting, this helps you put forward your most knowledgeable foot.

Clearly and Strategically Define the Problem: Consider the questions asked in strategic thinking: where am I now? Where do I want to be? How will I get there? Define the problem specifically with multiple avenues of creatively thinking through a problem.

Brainstorm Possible Solutions: The solution to the problem of where you want to be lies in the how. How will you get to where you want to be? From here, you'll be able to define several solutions to the problem and determine the best possible route to where you want to go.

Imagine Challenges in the Process: No goal is without its challenges. Goals themselves are inherently riddled with problems and bumps along the way. It's one of the many ways we can determine if a specific goal was a success. Was it ultimately worth the challenges you faced in the reaching of that goal? Are you able to eliminate or plan for specific challenges that may arise?

Execute the Plan: Strategic thinking can only get you so far. When a plan is created, follow through. Don't rely on a quick setup and drop-off. Executing a plan is the only way to ensure success and to find what areas you can develop further.

Delegating Assignments: Nobody can do everything alone. Any person with any degree of success can be quoted as saying "I couldn't have done it without X, Y, and Z." It's not a reduction in responsibilities that leads to success-it's the strategic implementation of help along the way and realizing what you're capable of, determining that fact, and delegating the responsibilities that would be best suited for another person.

Putting Strategic Thinking into Practice: How to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills

Strategic thinking is a skill you can develop over time. At first, it will seem clunky and difficult, but as time goes on and you regularly put these skills to the test, thinking strategically will be the only way you do it. Here are ways you can regularly improve your strategic thinking skills:

- Set aside time for thinking: Taking the time to intentionally think about a problem and its possible solutions fosters an environment of creativity that allows you to think outside the box and follow unusual, but successful, solutions.

- Look at what's happening around you: Find trends in the workplace or the world around you in order to determine what works and what doesn't.

- Question everything: This one stands on its own. Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the greatest thinkers in history, kept detailed journals of questions that he had, spanning from philosophy to architecture, anatomy, mechanics, and many other subjects. It's clear that his main goal in life was to learn, and to foster a culture of educational development.

- Learn from and get perspectives from other people: Speak with other people and understand their perspectives in order to gain more context about a given situation.

- Anticipate problems before they happen: In the process of problem-solving, one of the greatest assets is to anticipate the needs of the goal and the problems that might arise before they appear. This might not entirely eliminate the problem, but it will help overcome the issues before they develop into something insurmountable.

- Set clear goals and evaluate them frequently: Developing a critical thinking strategy is often done in conjunction with the creation of a goal. One way to develop these skills is to create a goal and find a way to reach that goal. This will help you follow the natural process of overcoming problems and developing a game plan in a strategic way.

- Determine the most important goals and focus on them: Oftentimes, one large goal will be made that is contingent on reaching several smaller goals, and sometimes that feels like an overwhelming task. Find the most important goal and work on that first. This will help you create a strategy of thinking where your efforts are most needed.

- Get creative: Being creative with your goals and thinking process will help you expand your mind and see different avenues to follow that might not otherwise have been seen, but will be better for the ultimate success of the goal.

Strategic Thinking is a Process, Not an Event

Don't expect an immediate gratification moment where you'll see all the changes for the benefit that they are. It takes time to develop your skills of thinking strategically in any scenario. When you begin to implement aspects of a plan, the goal will take time to reach. Success doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and effort to plan, prepare, and put processes in place to curate success. Don't get discouraged when you don't see immediate results. However, over time, after continuously putting forth the effort to develop your strategic thinking skills, you'll notice that it comes easier, the hiccups in the road will be less frequent, and you'll be able to plan for goals and any inevitable problems that will arise from time to time.

Strategic thinking is a necessary skill to have in any scenario where success is the goal. It's a process of eliminating unnecessary hardships on the way, and when developed with intentional effort, can be a valuable skill in any scenario. By constantly taking the time to practice and improve this skill, you'll be an asset in your personal and professional life.

About the Author: Anna Taylor

Anna Taylor is a freelance writer and avid researcher- a jack of all trades, but a master of none. She graduated from the University of Hawai'i with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts because she had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. She has since found her love of Extended Reality and the possibilities it brings to the world, as well as gardening, cooking, and writing. Anna lives in Interior Alaska with her family.

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