Strategic thinking has become a buzzword for many employers. It is an important concept, but difficult to define.
Strategic thinking is a way of processing, assessing and interpreting the world and using the information to create the future you envision. It is not an easy process, but it is one you can hone with practice and the right skills.
Strategic thinking involves understanding what someone needs to focus on and what someone needs to delegate, as well as being adapting in the workplace. It requires an acknowledgment of change. Utilizing strategic thinking improves how workers do business.
A strategic thinker recognizes opportunities in advance and creates a strategy to turn opportunities into reality. Strategic thinking comes naturally to some workers, but others must adjust their mindset to look at challenges with a new set of eyes.
A childlike curiosity and habit of asking everyone, “Why?” is the most basic precept of strategic thinking. As a child, you questioned everyone about what they were doing and what purpose it served. You did not just ask your teachers or parents – you probably asked anyone from your older siblings to your neighbors to strangers about their habits.
Asking these questions in the business world helps you find new ways of doing things. Additionally, you might find out that you did not understand something as thoroughly as you believed. Asking questions of everyone can help you gain access to perspectives you would not normally consider or hear.
Strategic thinking asks you to challenge and interrogate common thought patterns and processes. Question any information you get and do your own research. This includes questioning your own assumptions. No matter how much experience you have, there is someone who has more and can give you a new perspective.
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It is gratifying to hear your assumptions are always right, but this does not reflect reality. If everyone agrees with you all the time, it is time to question their assumptions and yours. Questioning processes can help you discover inefficiencies and outmoded techniques no longer serving you or your business well.
If you are always focused on day-to-day activities, you can miss changes on the horizon and opportunities for innovation. Looking ahead means anticipating changes and addressing new needs before they become a problem.
This means you should track what is going on at the fringes of your industry and other industries indirectly intersecting it. Talk to people in other industries, read journals to keep up with developments and pay attention to any changes that may affect you.
Anticipating change means looking at where your company may be five years from now, ten years from now or even further into the future. There are plenty of people who are looking at the goals for this month and this year. You can be far more effective when you examine recent trends, how it affects the landscape and what the long-term consequences may be.
If everyone you work with thinks exactly like you do, there is no evolution or change. You may continue to think like everyone else because it is a self-fulfilling habit. Surrounding yourself with people who have different cultural, educational and professional backgrounds encourages strategic thinking because these coworkers challenge your perspectives and open your eyes to new ways of approaching problems. A chemist looks at things differently than a teacher, but both perspectives can have validity in your industry.
Surrounding yourself with people with different perspectives improves strategic thinking only if you open your mind to their ideas. When you are questioned, do not get defensive. You must open your mind to alternative ideas, even when they come from someone else. Encourage debate and discussion and welcome contributions from your coworkers without taking any criticisms or push-back personally.
Asking peers for their perspective on your own processes can be an eye-opening experience. It can be easy to work with blinders on if your current approach has worked in the past. People looking in from the outside can point out potential problems you may have missed because you are so focused on your own goals and your usual thinking process.
Constantly adding to your knowledge and skill set gives you new ways to put your strategic thinking skills to use. The key is to learn new concepts and skills not directly related to your current job. In general, you must keep up with whatever is current in your industry.
However, taking classes on topics as wide-ranging as philosophy and literature can enhance your communications and encourage novel ways of thinking in any situation. By expanding your skillset, you can consider problems from new perspectives.
Daydreaming has gotten a bad rap over the years, but it can enhance strategic thinking. Take a few minutes every day to reflect on what you accomplished, what worked well and what did not. What energized you? Were there tasks you spent time on that never benefited your work? Evaluating on a daily or weekly basis encourages strategic thinking about how to improve and advance in the workplace.
Daily reflection allows you time to think about your ultimate goals in a more relaxed setting, so you can consider your past work without distractions. You rarely gain insight into your actions when you are thoroughly engaged in a task. yourself to be alone with your thoughts is an essential element of strategic thinking.
Strategic thinking requires the strength of both body and mind. It is crucial that you periodically relax and recharge. Take time off to visit places you have never been. People-watching is a great way to hone your strategic thinking skills. Ponder where someone is going and what they might do for a living.
These simple mind games encourage your brain to create new neural pathways. You can take a fresh world view back to work and re-evaluate your approach to anything from how effectively you communicate to how well you manage others.
Take time to recharge daily by setting aside your work for an hour and letting your mind wander. Additionally, you can try changing up your routine after work. Walk a different route home. Take the bus instead of driving. Offer to teach a class at a community college. Seek any action that challenges you to think in new ways.
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