By Todd Ballowe
Cultivating Strategic Thinking as a Strength

A recent Harvard Business Publications article by Michael Watkins, titled, How to Think Strategically, raised the question “are great strategic thinkers born or made?”

His answer was that while people range in talents, strategic thinking is a skill that can be honed through positive management of staff. Thankfully, he includes the following (summarized) concepts as valuable tools for building your capacity for strategic thought:

  • Immersion: Placing yourself in a totally new environment and giving yourself enough time to wrap your head around how it works.
  • Apprenticeships: Low-risk environments where students are taught one-on-one.
  • Simulations: “Manageably-complex” environments which can be “wound back” if needed to provide a complete understanding.
  • Game-theory training: Another type of simulation that examines how players work to manage limited resources and competing interests.
  • Case-based education: Learning systems and formulas to frame strategic thinking.
  • Cognitive reshaping: Mental exercises which are intended to create new thinking paterns.

While each is definitely worth further investigation, I found the discussion it created in the comments extra-useful- especially this excerpt from Matt Moore, of “Engineers Without Fears”:

Training & apprenticeships are good. Strategic thinking begins by looking at the impact of your activities outside your immediate task focus. “That’s not my job” or “I’m far too busy to think about what I’m doing” are the enemy of strategic thought. First line managers identify & nurture early attempts at strategic thinking among their staff (and those early attempts will be all over the place) then that is an important first step. A significant minority of managers do not do that however – and those embryonic strategic thinkers are lost.

What’s your trick for developing strategic thinking? Let us know and we’ll include it in a roundup.