Think about how you make decisions. Do you weigh the pros and cons of each option? Do you have criteria that guide your selection? Have you thought through the next steps resulting from your decision?
If you said “yes” to each of these questions, you are using a good decision making approach. But you aren’t being strategic in your decision making. Strategic thinkers don’t just think through decisions that are in front of them. They are thinking ahead. Where does this decision lead? What opportunity does this decision create? They will ask these questions several times. They will think through contingencies. They will have a plan for every contingency. They have the ability to imagine options that others don’t see.
Here are some ways to develop a strategic focus. We’ll use the example of deciding on what job to take as we go through this list.
- Challenge the information you start with – Often the information you are given limits the options you might want to consider.In your job strategy example, you may have perceptions about your own abilities that just aren’t valid or tested. You may have perceptions about jobs that just aren’t true.
- Be bold in the options you might want to consider. Initially some options may seem very bad, but these may lead to outcomes far superior to the ones that look more attractive short term.In your job strategy, you may not want to consider an option because it doesn’t seem acceptable to someone with your background, but this option may lead to future possibilities that you might not otherwise get.
- Create a contingency plan for every option. Think ahead about what might happen and your response to each contingency. To the greatest extent possible, think of how you can turn every negative consequence in to a positive one.In your job strategy, think what might happen if your initial choice wasn’t a good one. Every job will give you experience and contacts. Think about how these will lead to other opportunities. A strategic thinking person will always have a Plan B, C, and D.
- Work backwards. Think about where you want a situation to end up. Then imagine what you need to do to make that situation happen. Try to imagine the immediate point prior to achieving your desired end point. Keep repeating this thought process until you get to where you are today. The key thing is to try to follow that path in each decision moment in your career.
- Imagine everyone you meet as a key person in achieving your strategy. Learn from them. Think about how they can make a contribution. Think of them as someone who you need to bring on board.
- Make connections when connections don’t seem evident. For examples, look at the veins of a maple leaf. How might these veins suggest a strategy? You can do this for any common object.
Strategic thinking skills can be developed, but you must be ready to take risks and move out of your comfort zone.