When applied in an organisational strategic management process, strategic thinking involves the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities intended to create competitive advantage for a firm or organisation.
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It can be done individually, as well as collaboratively among key people who can positively alter an organisation’s future.
Strategic thinking includes finding and developing a strategic foresight capacity for an organisation, by exploring all possible organisational futures, and challenging conventional thinking to foster decision-making today.
Strategic thinking has six key elements which include the ability to anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, align and learn. While each of these elements has received isolated attention, they become significant in entirely new ways when examined in the context of one comprehensive framework.
Most leaders focus on the present, but research shows that futures never follow a straight line. Strategic leaders proactively monitor the environment to foresee industry shifts — even at the periphery so that they can prepare for the resulting threats and opportunities.
Though conventional wisdom is tempting, strategic thinkers question everything instead of accepting information at face value. They reframe problems to understand root causes, challenge current beliefs and mindsets, and uncover hypocrisy, manipulation and bias.
Anticipating change and challenging conventions surfaces valuable facts and figures that must be thoughtfully analysed to yield actionable results. Strategic leaders compare and contrast these data points in unconventional ways and test multiple hypotheses before arriving at conclusions.
Indecision, also known as analysis paralysis, often keeps leaders from acting swiftly, resulting in missed windows of opportunity.
Strategic leaders use process and discipline to arrive at a good enough decision. They balance speed, rigor, quality and agility to take courageous stands, even with incomplete information.
Strategic leaders welcome the diversity of differing viewpoints and opinions, but also must know how and when to align divergent agendas to work toward a common goal. Actively engaging stakeholders to encourage open dialogue and address misalignment helps build trust and reach consensus.
Learning leaders encourage and embrace feedback, viewing success and failure as sources of critical insight. They insist on rigorous debriefs, remain agile, course-correct quickly if off track, and celebrate the right kind of failures in addition to success.