In fact, some experts believe that the best strategic thinkers are T-shaped. The bar on the top of the ‘T’ represents the breadth of their knowledge, while the stem represents a deep understanding of their own area of expertise. So, as well as reading widely, you’ll need to understand the finer points of your own industry. By attending seminars and conferences you’ll have the chance to keep up to date while also drawing on the experience and insights of your peers.
4. Step into others’ shoes
Another key to starting to think more strategically is to discuss your ideas with different people. And this becomes exponentially more valuable when you discuss your ideas with people who think differently to you. That’s because you won’t just be increasing the pool of ideas and points of view on a topic, you’ll also be given the chance to look at problems in a different way. So if you tend to like detail, but a colleague is big picture, why not ask them to join you for a brainstorming session? Bringing together sales and technical people or extraverts and introverts can be a gold mine for generating ideas.
Your clients can also serve as a great source of inspiration for new ideas and new ways of thinking. And by encouraging them to share their thoughts with you, you won’t just end up with material for new strategic ideas, you’ll be strengthening relationships and building trust.
5. Encourage others
The more strategic minds you have generating ideas for you, the better. So why not try to build a culture in your business where everyone is encouraged to think strategically? The easiest way to do this is to start rewarding people who come up with ingenious ways of doing things. It doesn’t always have to be a financial incentive - often just public recognition of someone’s efforts is enough to spur them on.
You can also encourage your staff to think more strategically by assigning them a mentor or incorporating strategic ideas into your training and performance appraisal system.
6. Make decisions
Strategy isn’t all about thinking; it’s also about executing. So once you’ve started generating ideas and making connections between them, you’ll have to start making decisions about what to do next. And, because we’re all limited by time, money and resources, usually that means prioritising.
To put your strategy into effect, you may have to abandon something you’re doing, look for an employee with a new skillset or spend money on a new office, a new product or a new acquisition. Sometimes you may even have to let staff go.
The worst thing you can do is to let your strategic thinking go to waste because you haven’t been able to make a decision about what to do.
The real value of strategic thinking
Finally, it’s worth remembering that the real value in strategic thinking isn’t just in generating ideas or in making better decisions: it’s about building a framework that future-proofs your business, makes you a better manager and leader and gives you the best chance of achieving long-term success.