You need these 6 skills to improve your strategic thinking

miyamoto-musashi-

On a few occasions, I have already written about the strategic thinking and the impact it can have in our everyday life. Today I will try in more detail to break down, which are the skills that comprise strategic thinking. In my own experience I focus on implementing certain steps in my analysis of situation before I make any decision or take a stand in dealing with a problem. These steps can help us work on certain skills that in the long run can improve our strategic thinking and the ability of decision making.

  1. The foremost critical skill I identified to think strategically is to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. That includes both business and personal goals with sharp focus on what you really want. I would say that this is a prerequisite in almost any life situation because unclear motivation opens door to insecurity, fear of failure and at the end it leads to indecisiveness.
  1. The second skill I like to call is thinking in reverse. What I mean by that is once you have the end goal in mind it’s easier to design actionable tasks and objectives that will structure your strategic approach. Each objective needs to have a timeline for execution as well defined needed resources. In business situations is not an uncommon thing to have even different scenarios brainstormed, according to the variability of conditions and environment where by tackling the problem from different angles, we are still able to achieve desired goal.
  1. Being able to achieve desired milestones a strategic thinkers need to have a high level of responsiveness and adaptability. It requires just letting enough room for flexibility into their plans, where they can review progress and revise the course of action once the conditions change. It’s somehow an innate ability to be proactive and allow intuition to be receptive to anticipate change – which is better approach then responding to change once it occurs. They listen, observe, interact with their environment in such manner that they identify subtle signals that raises the awareness and helps in tailoring the best solutions to a given problem.
  1. They are lifelong learners, oriented towards growth and are never afraid to ask questions. One of the drivers in developing a better strategic thinking is the desire for new experiences and trying something new. For them is never too late to learn a new language, dance or ride a horse! This avid hunger for life enables them to think better on strategic issues.
  1. They measure 3 times before they cut. What I mean by that is that the creative part they have, they don’t shut down because some solution is ‘too risky’, ‘too costly’, but rather they have a specific notion how to balance out the surges of creativity with a sense of what is achievable and what will bring the greatest benefit in the long run. It’s a sort of cautious optimism entwined with honest desire to make the best of what’s given to them.
  1. They make room for ‘me’ time. The best and greatest strategic thinkers take time out for themselves: To relax, to release any tension in their body, to slow down their fast pace thoughts. It allows them to find inner stability and prepare for future tasks.

We can work on improving our skills by challenging our conventional thinking patterns, brainstorm different scenarios for a given a problem and recognizing weaknesses and strengths of any situation or business condition.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This poem by Robert Frost is an excellent example on how we make our choices in life. What variables are the most important in our question to which direction to turn? This poem stimulates constant reexamination of situation, “measuring before cutting” and instinctively is actually ‘training’ us to think more strategically.

While reading poetry you are challenging your thinking on more subtle levels. That kind of stimulation empowers both ability of visualization and gaining clarity which is vital in strategic thinking.

11 Comments

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  1. In terms of martial training from Musashi, the one who can adapt most from the shortest to the longest weapon he can wield, only that person can also adopt the flexibility of his own character

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  2. A very useful post, thank you. I’m not sure about Robert Frost, though. I think you’re thinking of the one that includes “And I/Took the road less travelled by.” I think this one is about silence, a peaceful moment, the poet being one with nature. I just checked it out – The Road Not Taken, rather than Stopping By Woods.

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    • Well, they both deal with indecisiveness – in my modest opinion. The previous one was already mentioned in one of my articles…but nevertheless like any other poem you can interpret it in endless ways. This one in particular “Stopping by the woods” was a explored in the workshops on strategy topics, delivered by Claire Morgan (in the section “begin here” you can find more about the book. But I do agree, there maybe some more appropriate poems for the topic. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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  3. Another great post. I work in the strategic sphere but always find myself falling short on number 6 – Thanks for reminding us about that. Yes – I tend to take the load less travelled. As you say though, each time you write or read a poem, certain things start to happen – for me it’s probably a combination of testing my values, philosophies and connection to my soul and then always needing to reframe and adapt. Too late in the night for me to be philosophical but a great piece to ponder on. 🙂

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  4. Very well thought out and composed! This is often something I tell my fashion design students- how important it is to have strategic thinking to translate and realize creative ideas. These are very useful pointers you have put down. Thank you😊.

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    • Thank you for reading. I used to work as a professor too and I know how is important to break down information to be easily understood 🙂 And for you and your students in the fashion industry strategically delivering any idea is a sure way to success.

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