You may not have heard of strategic thinking or maybe you've heard of it but didn't understand it so ignored it.
If you're looking to build a successful business, online or offline, the chances of real success, more quickly are greatly increased with strategic thinking.
Well over 2,000 years ago, Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher, lived and wrote his masterpiece on strategy The Art of War.
While it was specifically about strategy in war, it is very applicable to modern day business as evidenced by the over 1 million copies that have been sold; I'd bet that most of those by business owners or other business people. In it he explained about maintaining a position of advantage your rivals.
Generally, there's a lack of understanding of what strategic thinking is and this, of course, leads to confusion.
Below we'll look at what strategic thinking is, why you'd want to do it and how to do it.
What is Strategic Thinking
Some authors, Ian Wilson for one, have suggested that strategic thinking is merely thinking about strategy.
He says "The need for strategic thinking has never been greater... it is now more appropriate to refer to it as strategic management..."
They attempt to define strategic thinking as some kind of new and improved version of strategic planning and this leads to confusion and ignore the importance of strategic thinking in its purest sense.
Strategic thinking is about focusing on higher level strategies by finding, and subsequently, developing opportunities for you to create value.
It's a way to focus on and understand the fundamental drivers of your business and continuously have you challenging the conventional thinking about those drivers.
Another way to view strategic thinking is brainstorming and applying "possibility thinking" with the goal of developing a direction and goals (they need to be strategic goals); it's a way of thinking that has well defined, and specific purpose, characteristics.
One result of this process is the ability and need to build processes and systems so you can easily make and evaluate decisions and actions so that they all tie back to the strategic direction and goals.
This is important because every issue, every opportunity, every problem, and every action needs to be aligned to the broader context of the strategic goals so you stay focused and you aren't going off in lots of different directions.
Why You Should Do Strategic Thinking
Strategic thinking should be a business priority because it keeps you ahead of your competitors, well positioned in your marketplace, builds and retains a good reputation, and results in a solid road map for you to follow.
It will also help you to keep all your efforts focused towards your goals and help you be more efficient in your day-to-day operation.
A great side effect is that strategic thinking allows you to be more flexible to react to changing circumstances.
A Wall Street Journal study found that the most sought after executive skill by corporation was strategic thinking, but that few people have that knowledge and skill set.
Who Should Be Doing the Strategic Thinking
Contrary to what some "business experts" say, strategic thinking is not just for the boss and it is not just their sole responsibility.
No, it's the responsibility of every person who works for you; in fact, everyone should be doing periodic strategic thinking so that your strategic plan is kept current; always be re-evaluating, challenging, and adjusting.
How to Do Strategic Thinking
When you do strategic thinking you need to look at all the important aspects of your business including those internal to your company, the market forces outside your company, as well as the economy and global trends; then assess the impact and adjust as necessary.
As you go through the process be sure to do a high level SWOT analysis so you consider the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your company; this will help you make a successful strategic plan.
As I mentioned, on a daily basis you use your strategic plan to consider the impact of your decisions and actions to ensure alignment to the plan.
This may also inspire another round of strategic thinking as new situations arise.
Don't Ignore Strategic Thinking
While the topic is much too large to do it justice in a single blog post, after all there are numerous books on just this topic, you should have a better understand of what strategic thinking is and why it's important to do it; it really is critical to the success of your business.
Think you're not at risk?
Look at this quote from Michael Gerber from his classic E-Myth Mastery, "Of the 1 million U.S. small businesses started this year , more than 80% of them will be out of business within 5 years and 96% will have closed their doors before their 10th birthday."
Yes, only 4 out of 100 business last more than 10 years.
Rich Schrefren, in his One Step Ahead newsletter, points out that successful entrepreneurs have a vision and a specific end in mind; that they develop different possibilities and choose the most optimal one.
He says that they continually assess and review the very best opportunities and adjust their approach as necessary.
They look at every new opportunity and compare it with their current plan looking to see if it fits their plan, if it'll make the plan easier or if it will even improve the plan itself.
Those that don't think strategically just look at whether the opportunity will make them more money today even if it distracts from their plan and, ultimately, cause them to lose more than they'd gain.
They are "shining object" seekers not serious business builders.
If you don't want to put your business at risk then don't ignore strategic thinking.