Now, as you know what it is, why it is important and what competences it requires, it is time to put things in action!
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Strategic Thinking is not only the domain of top management and company owners, but also very important to apply for employees at all levels of the company.
The two exercises we will present below will improve your Strategic Thinking skills and thus improve your added value for the company and bring you further in your career.
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few do it.” Henry Ford
Contrarily to what most people think, Strategic Thinking is not exclusively the domain of the top management of a company. It is important for the day-to-day work of every person working in and for the organisation.
In addition, Strategic Thinking is not a once-only activity that happens when developing the business plan. Having a strategic plan is one thing, but having every employee working that plan and strategically re-evaluate, challenge and adjust that plan where necessary is the ideal for every company. Just think of the potential if all employees, from customer service representative, to administrator, to programmer, to team leader, to specialist, applied strategic thinking to their work.
Besides the benefits it brings the company (and therefore mostly considered the priority of owners and general management), Strategic Thinking is also of high importance of all individual employees in a company. Especially as you move forward on the career ladder, Strategic Thinking becomes an increasingly important skill. Simply putting your head down and working hard is not enough to progress your career. I. PRACTICAL ACTIVITY: Four fun techniques to improve Strategic Thinking The following 4 techniques help you to practise and develop your Strategic Thinking skills:
1. Ask “What would (...) do?” If you don’t know how to solve an issue, stop trying to answer the question from your own point of view. Instead, think of what your role model would do.
2. Look at it through different eyes In line with the former technique, put yourself in the shoes of your companies owner. What’s important to him or her? What’s not? What does good performance look like from their perspective? What keeps them awake at night? Look at things from a variety of other people’s perspectives too, like a customer, partner or supplier.
3. Imagine the future Imagine it is five years from now in a perfect situation. Ask yourself questions like: What projects are you working on now? What are people saying about your work? What makes your work successful? This technique enables you to use your imagination rather than sticking to what you think is true.
4. Stop thinking Sometimes our brains do their best creative work when they’re not actively occupied. Be clear about the question you’d like to answer, for example “What would most impress our newest customers?”. Then stop thinking about the issue. Let your subconscious do its thing while you get on with easier tasks or take a walk.
Trying one of these techniques will lift your thinking above today’s to-do list and might fill your future to-do list with clever, creative projects to showcase your career potential.
II. PRACTICAL ACTIVITY: Three-step plan
Another basic strategy to improve Strategic Thinking includes: 1) connecting new information with what you already know, 2) selecting your thinking strategies carefully and intentionally, and 3) planning, monitoring, and evaluating your thinking strategies and processes.
1. Connecting new information Strategic thinking is all about being conscious of your thinking processes. You have to connect the new information to what you already know in order to help make sense of what actions to take. You can do this by identifying what you know and what you do not know about a certain situation.
Here is an exercise to help you identify old and new information.
Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of the sheet to create two columns. At the top of the left column, write, “What I know,” and at the top of the right column, write, “What I want to learn.” As you research and explore these questions, you will learn to clarify, revise, verify, or expand your understanding of the situation.
2. Selecting intentional thinking strategies Next, identify strategies that will help solve the knowledge gap that arose and that will help you to become more intentional with your work. By connecting old information with the new you are making conscious choices and decisions about what you know and what you do not know. This helps you to think of strategies that are most helpful and appropriate to you.
Strategic thinking is most useful when you find strategies that are appropriate for your level of knowledge, building upon what you know.
3. Planning, monitoring and evaluating As you collect information related to your actions, you will add or revise your strategies as needed. Your knowledge base has grown and what was new information at one time is now old information.
This video discusses how to develop the habit of everyday strategic thinking. It also presents seven questions that will help you get out of the daily activity trap and think more strategically.
After watching the short film, ask yourself these 7 questions:
• Why am I doing this activity? • Who am I serving ? • What is the truly value added? • What do my customers want from me in the future? • How is my environment changing? • How can I better prepare myself for the future? • What can I do now that will produce a pay-off in the future?
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Develop your Strategic Thinking skills by:
• Asking yourself the question: “What would (...) do?” • Look at issues through different eyes! • Imagine the future! • Take a step back: stop thinking for a while!
Another basic strategy to improve Strategic Thinking includes:
• Connecting new information with what you already know; • Selecting your thinking strategies carefully and intentionally; • Planning, monitoring, and evaluating your thinking strategies and processes.
Instead of being occupied with operations problems and completing your to-do list for the day, Strategic Thinking helps you to set your priorities straight. Strategic thinking provides a vision for action. It answers the question “What is worth pursuing and why?”. It helps zooming out to see the bigger picture.
Apply one of the 4 fun techniques for strategic thinking and reflect afterwards. Did it help you in your work? Was is mostly useful on the long-term or also on short-term? Did you make any permanent changes in how you execute your work?
Multiple choice questions: 1: What are questions you could ask yourself to improve your Strategic Thinking? Multiple answers are allowed.
A. What are operational issues I need to solve today? B. What do my customers want from me in the future? C. What can I do now that will produce a pay-off in the future?
Correct answers: B and C
2: Which of the following statements is true: A. Strategic Thinking is exclusively the domain of the top management of a company B. Strategic Thinking is important for all level employees in a company
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