3 Ways to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills
Understanding These Facts About Strategic Thinking Skills Will Drive Further Success
As an entrepreneur, your role in your business can range from the very bottom (mailing out product) to the very top (long-range planning). Being able to cover this broad spectrum of thought processes comes with ease to very few initially. And while some people do seem to have natural, inborn strategic thinking skills, the rest of us don’t even know what that means or how to do it.
So what is strategy, how does it help us turn a vision of success into reality, and what can one do to further develop strategic thinking skills?
Think back to when you were a child and you picked dandelions that had gone to seed. You would close your eyes, take a deep breath to fill your cheeks, and blow with all your might, sending white fluff into the air. Each seed, floating in the breeze represented a portion of your wish. As a child, you may have believed that wishing on these white puffballs would really improve the chances of your wish coming true. As an adult—an entrepreneur—you know better (well, you should).
Strategy is the means of taking action, of bringing the vision for your business to fruition. It’s a well-developed plan that outlines steps for carrying out the process that will drive success. Without a strategy, you may as well be wishing on dandelions. Unfortunately, strategic thinking is not an innate human ability despite the fact that others may make it seem that way. It’s a set of skills that need to be developed and nurtured.
Here are 3 ways to add to your strategic thinking repertoire.
1.) Strategic Thinkers Make Time
If you are like most entrepreneurs, you have your head down making sure you get the day-to-day done. Blocking time for “thinking” feels like a waste when compared to your continuously expanding to-do list. But the time invested in strategic thinking now will pay dividends down the road.
2.) Strategic Thinkers Contemplate Strategy Inclusions and Exclusions by Asking Questions
Ask bigger, broader questions about your business, the marketplace, and trends, like:
- What does success look like? What are my goals?
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Once you’ve clarified your vision, you have enabled yourself to work backward and determine the steps you need to take to achieve success.
- What drives most of the profit for my business?
Understanding what is currently working for your business is critical to strategic thinking. Every business is not created equal; what works for one may lead another to failure. You need to pay attention to what is keeping your business afloat and ensure those aspects of your business are well-tended to.
- What themes do I hear from my clients’ challenges? What offering, if I provided or added, would delight them?
If I asked you why your business exists, you might be tempted to rattle off a long list of hopes, dreams, and passions. But the truth is, your business exists because of one main reason: clients and/or customers. Never forget that, or your business will likely take a nosedive and spiral into the abyss. Strategic thinking skills will only be present when we have our their target market in mind when making decisions.
- What trends do I notice in my industry? What about in the industries of those I serve? What will changes in these industries mean for my business? What opportunities might appear? What threats am I likely to be faced with?
I’m not saying you need to aspire to be a fortune teller for your industry, but anticipating what the future holds for your particular business and the industry in which it operates will allow you to be proactive. So, if and when you are face-to-face with a new opportunity or threat, you’ll be better prepared to capitalize on opportunities and better manage risk and avoid pitfalls.
3.) Strategic Thinking Isn’t a Solitary Practice
Include others in your strategic thinking process and listen well to what they have to say. Remember your mind likely holds only one perspective.
Most large businesses hold strategic brainstorming sessions regularly despite the cringe-worthy appeal because they work. The multitude of perspectives allows them to weigh a variety of scenarios and choose the best path to success. For small businesses and entrepreneurs, it’s not so easy to round up a room full of qualified individuals for a brainstorming session, but it can be done. Go to your group of mentors, biz besties, clients, and others who support and know your business. Ask them what they see and further inquire about their perspectives and experiences. Seek others who think differently than you. They will broaden the scope of what your own mind can consider. Now is not the time to argue or close down—simply listen with an open mind and ask curious and probing questions to gain a deeper understanding.
There’s no need to shudder next time someone tells you to think strategically. The word strategy tends to bring out anxiety in many entrepreneurs but it really is just a word—a word with plenty of less-scary synonyms: game plan, blueprint, tactic, scheme, system, approach. See, not so scary, is it? So roll up your sleeves, put your game face on, and start thinking strategically.
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