Mobile logo

Introduction to Strategic Thinking



A. understand what strategic thinking is and why it is important;
B. identify the skills and competences related to strategic thinking and get ideas on how to improve them.

Strategic thinking is a process that defines the manner in which people think about, assess, view, and create the future for themselves and others. 

Time needed to review this content: 30 MIN
One of the keys to becoming a great leader is to constantly improve your strategic thinking, so you can adjust to new global realities. Yet with time limits and stress from work and family, managers often feel they don’t have the time to improve. That is a mistake.

Your own career and the future of your company depend on your strategic thought and its constant improvement.
A study of more than 10,000 executives showed that strategic thinking is the #1 most important leadership competency today. But, only 23 percent of managers are strategic.

Learn more about strategic thinking, it's importance and the skills that a strategic thinker should develop!

Strategic thinking can be defined as “the ability to generate insights on a continual basis to achieve competitive advantage.”
An insight is when you combine two or more disparate pieces of information in a unique way to create a new approach. The insight provides you with an understanding of the true nature of the issue at hand.


It can be difficult to be strategic. But a strategic thinker is always searching for the unusual – something that is different – and is able to set assumptions aside. They intentionally look at things from different perspectives. A person who has strategic perspective creates clarity out of complex and seemingly disconnected details. They can feel the winds of change, sense points of conflict and opportunity and articulate in concrete terms how they can be addressed. They get to the heart of a problem and see the relationship between key elements.

What Strategic Thinking is NOT:

Strategic thinking is not the same as critical thinking. Critical thinking is a useful part of strategic thinking, but many critical thinkers are unable to think strategically; for example, designing a strategy to prevail over a competitor.

Strategic thinking is not the same as creative thinking. Creative thinking is imaginative and playful and can be a useful component of strategic thinking. However, creative thinking exercises often place no attention on the future success orientation.

Strategic thinking is not the same as visionary thinking. Visionary thinking is often simply dreaming big with the intention of inspiring others to adopt the vision. While a company needs a vision, strategic thinking involves a deeper level of conceptualizing – compared to visionary thinking – because the outcome that is envisioned will only be achieved through creating and executing a strategy.

Strategic thinking is not the same as strategic planning. Organizations create strategies to achieve success, and the process of doing this is often termed strategic planning. However, strategic thinking is an individual activity. Strategic thinking produces insights, which become inputs to the strategic planning process.

Part of being a strategic thinker relates to your personality as the majority of the strategic thinkers are able to anticipate the future, are curious, focus on long-term plans, are able to take risks, are creative, are good learners, and are able to prioritize their tasks. However, everyone is able to develop their strategic thinking skills with varied levels.

Developing some of these skills can help improving your overall strategic thinking capabilities:

1. Ability to anticipate and have a long-term vision


Those who can anticipate the future will have more time to prepare and thus will be ready when changes come.
Take the game of Chess as an example. If you want to win the game you must be able to anticipate your opponent’s next move. Thinking through the options and working through scenarios in your mind will give you the competitive edge and potential winning move to make.
Anticipation is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. At first it requires being practiced more intentionally, since it involves looking at things through a different lens. Over time, it becomes more natural as you train your mind to quickly size up the options and possible responses that might lead to your desired outcome.
Some ideas on how to improve your anticipation skills:

2. Critical Thinking


Critical thinking helps make decisions through objective evaluation and analysis of problems and ideas.
There are a number of critical thinking skills. A core set includes the following:
• Suspending judgment to check the validity of a proposition or action
• Taking into consideration multiple perspectives
• Examining implications and consequences of a belief or action
• Using reason and evidence to resolve disagreements
• Re-evaluating a point of view in light of new information
An effective way to improve your critical thinking skills includes having another person to confront your beliefs and challenge your thought process. Our friends, colleagues and mentors are often more than willing to oblige us with this kind of help.

3. Observation


Leaders often need to do more assessing of their current organization, culture, product, technology and/or business model. Ask questions like:
• “How does work really get done around here?”
• “What works well and why? What doesn’t?”
• “Do we know what our customers really think about us?”
Break your daily routine and watch others, pop into team meetings, visit customers and the competition, use your products, etc. You’ll learn new information, which will spark more strategic questions and thinking.

4. Open to Discussion


Many people hate to listen to opinions or ideas that offend with their thoughts and ideologies. They surround themselves with people who agree with them or read about theories that meet with their point of views. In order to build a strategic thinking, we need to build a broader understanding of the situation from different perspectives. This involves being open-minded and willing to listen to other opinions.
Some managers are worried about the time consumption of the open discussions especially when the team themselves are not willing to accept other ideas. In this case, the meeting can run in a form of a brainstorming session using any of the tools such as the six thinking hats, mind maps, reversed brainstorming, and others.

5. Learning


Strategic thinkers are good learners. While most of the managers are afraid to fail, they learn from failure more than they learn from success.
In the middle of high competition and the ongoing battle to achieve market success, strategic thinking becomes one of the important skills that every employee or business owner need to acquire.

To become great at anything, you need to practice it on a regular basis. If you want to become highly strategic, you need to practice thinking strategically!
Watch the Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair discusses the advice he received from Bill Clinton about the need to schedule time to think strategically. Do you have time to think strategically?

Learn about the habits of True Strategic Thinkers in the interview with Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks.

How to develop the habit of everyday strategic thinking and as well as seven questions that will help you get out of the daily activity trap and think more strategically.


Try these three approaches to improve your strategic thinking skills:

1. Constantly question your own opinions. Seek out information that contradicts your point of view and you’ll end up with a more complete view of any situation.
2. Include people with diverse areas of expertise on your team. Their different thinking styles and bodies of knowledge will complement your own—and improve your work.
3. Get out of the office. Whether it’s going for a short walk or traveling to a new destination, when you give yourself a break from work to reflect, you can gain valuable new perspectives.


Strategic thinking is one of the most important leadership competences and helps achieve competitive advantage.
Strategic thinking is not the same as critical thinking, creative thinking, visionary thinking or strategic planning.
Everybody can develop strategic thinking skills by improving their ability to anticipate, critical thinking and observation skills, being open to discussion and learning, learning, learning.



Why strategic thinking is important to my business?
What are my own strengths and weaknesses related to strategic thinking?
How may I improve my strategic thinking skills?



"6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers" - learn what you have to do to become a strategic thinker
What Does it Really Mean to Think Strategically? - adopt these 8 steps will help you establish a strategic mindset for you and your team
How can you increase your ability to anticipate?
Critical thinking skills

<< Back