The Art and Science of Strategy

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a process of creativity and discovery

Strategic thinking and strategic planning are not one and the same. Though they are mutually dependent activities, the former is differentiated from the latter by its focus on creativity, learning and discovery. Strategic thinking is the process that allows you to identify new or emerging strategies, conceptually manage the strategy (or strategies) you already have in place, and maintain strategic clarity against a backdrop of changing opportunities, a shifting customer base, and an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Traditional planning models (or consultants) might lead you to believe that strategies are created during leadership retreats in exotic or not-so-exotic locations. They indicate that if you combine the right people, with the right information, at the right location, innovative ideas and sparkling insights will naturally materialize. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but like sightings of Bigfoot in Manhattan, it has proved to be quite rare.

Strategic thinking is continuous

Strategic thinking doesn’t fit well within a traditional strategic planning process. It’s not event-driven and therefore is not very amenable to formulaic approaches. Rather, it works best as a continuous process that is integrated with—and becomes an active part of—your daily, weekly and monthly operational routine.

True strategic thinking demands a commitment to seeing things differently; learning and discovering new things about your business, customers and industry; and being aware of emerging challenges and opportunities wherever you compete.

Without the effort to insert a creative engine within your organization’s strategic process, the drive toward creativity and insight becomes marginalized by your daily operational emergencies and challenges. Lacking due care, strategic insight falls victim to the ever-present tyranny of the urgent.

Strategic thinking requires a dedicated effort

Strategically oriented organizations realize that the process of discovery requires dedication and discipline. They understand that strategic thinking is challenging and often difficult. They’ve learned that without a disciplined creative process, strategy development becomes stale and, all too often, ineffective.

A dedicated effort is necessary because strategic thinking is the catalyst that jump-starts strategic success and provides the very foundation for the strategic process.

Strategic thinking is the activity that allows you to:

  • manage and evaluate the efficacy of existing strategies,
  • identify and analyze emerging strategies, and
  • formulate new strategies or new applications for strategies already in place.

Don’t assume that creativity and insight are the natural outcomes of a formula-driven strategic planning process. Our experience at Strategy Partners shows otherwise. Insight almost always pre-dates planning and is an independently creative or discovery-based activity. Though bound up tightly with planning and execution, strategic thinking illuminates the playing field and defines your competitive options. It is the key to understanding and pointing the way toward true competitive advantage.