What Is Strategic Thinking And Can You Do It?
Strategic thinking means generating and applying unique business insights and opportunities to create advantage for an organization.
It can be done individually, as well as in a group. Working in a group may improve the quality of strategic thinking by creative dialogue and challenge, adding different perspectives on critical and complex issues. This kind of thinking is a distinct benefit in a highly competitive and fast-changing business landscape.
J M Liedtka
J. M. Liedtka is a professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia. Formerly the executive director of its Batten Institute, a foundation established to develop thought leadership in the fields of entrepreneurship and corporate innovation; she has also served as chief learning officer for the United Technologies Corporation (UTC) and as associate dean of the MBA program at Darden.
At United Technologies Corporation she was responsible for overseeing corporate learning and development for the Fortune 50 Corporation, including executive education, career development processes, employer-sponsored education and learning portal and web-based activities.
Strategic thinking competencies
J M Liedtka has observed five competencies for strategic thinking;
- A systems perspective; this enables understanding of the implications of strategic actions. A strategic thinker has a mental model of the complete end-to-end system of how the organization delivers value and his or her role within it, and an understanding of the competencies the organization contains already
- Intent focus; this means more clear determination to succeed with less willingness to be distracted by side issues – seeing the wood, despite the trees . To gain competitive advantage the organization needs more focus than others around it. Crediting Hamel and Prahalad with popularizing the concept, J M Liedtka describes strategic intent as “the focus that allows individuals within an organization to marshal and leverage their energy, to focus attention, to resist distraction, and to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal.”
- Thinking in time; this means being able to hold past, present and future in mind at the same time to create better decision making and speed implementation. “Strategy is not driven by future intent alone. It is the gap between today’s reality and intent for the future that is critical.” Scenario planning is a practical application for incorporating “thinking in time” into strategy making.
- Hypothesis driven thinking; this ensures that both creative and critical thinking are incorporated into strategy making. This competency explicitly incorporates the scientific method into strategic thinking.
- Intelligent opportunism; this means being able to respond positively to good opportunities for change. “The dilemma involved in using a well-articulated strategy to channel organizational efforts effectively and efficiently must always be balanced against the risks of losing sight of alternative strategies better suited to a changing environment.
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