You have to be fast on your feet and adaptive or else a strategy is useless.
Strategic thinking at its core is a careful planning process where project or business idea is directed in such a way that it has a greater chance for successful, desired outcome. It usually applies innovation, especially in the operational processes.
It’s true we can learn a lot from our past experiences, but we shouldn’t build our future strategic foundation merely on that, but rather considering how to create a value for customers, long-term contribution. And strategic planning helps us analyze and put in perspective the “how” and “when” in our business applications. It requires a dose of creativity and innovation where mixed with our current knowledge is a winning formula for successful strategy. It serves us as a framework for decision making – namely about direction of the business and resource utilization.
This is about strategic thinking seen form a managerial point of view. But what happens on the more subtle levels, when we try to conceive new strategy, innovative approach to an old problem?
C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel suggest in one of their papers that in order to be a successful strategic thinker, you must be aware of the competitive environment, have grasp of the future and be able to motivate others to practically do the same: share the view of the big picture.
In the article “How strategists really think” Giovanni Gavetti and Jan W. Rivkin argue that the reasoning by analogy plays a crucial role in the successful strategic thinking. In the example they’ve given in the paper, you will see how Intel chairman Andy Grove came up with an important business strategy:
In the 1970s, upstart minimills established themselves in the steel business by making cheap concrete-reinforcing bars known as rebar. Established players like U.S. Steel ceded the low end of the business to them, but deeply regretted that decision when the minimills crept into higher-end products. Andy Grove, seized on the steel analogy, referring to cheap PCs as “digital rebar.” The lesson was clear and Intel soon began to promote its low-end Celeron processor more aggressively to makers and buyers of inexpensive PCs.
Our brain frequently uses metaphors in order to compare experiences, make choices, decisions, exclude or include certain things from desired experience – somehow it guides our conclusive thinking. In our minds we form one set of conditions analogous to another from which we derive great idea for action.
The mind of a good strategist needs to have an intellectual flexibility, a sort of adaptation mode which enables him to come up with the best possible solutions to challenging situations. It’s interesting that by reading poetic metaphors, using them for better understanding of the world around us we enhance our own capabilities of envisioning possible scenarios in every given situation; it helps us train our thinking in a way that from the given conditioning we can set the course of future development in the most favorable direction for us.
And as Emily Dickinson pointed in her poem Life:
The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.
The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.