Thinking strategically is a very powerful skill. This long range, critical level of brain function is also one of our more developed faculties as humans. It is somewhat like a game, or plotting an equation, where you are trying to understand the variables and moves that will lead to a chosen end point. The more we can think clearly and critically, the more we can bridge the gap between ideation and implementation, and the more we can communicate clearly. It is also a skill we can get better at everyday with practice, reflection and support from others.
There are many variables that go into the decisions we make everyday and their outcomes. When the way you think about these steps is more refined, then your actions can be optimized. For example, were you to want to start project X, or achieve goal Y, or consider your life goals, you would want to consider many factors which would all affect the end goal.
– What are the values and vision that you are building on? These are the yardsticks for success or failure, these are ways you can set yourself apart, the gaps you are better placed to fill and a pointer to your stakeholders and the kinds of risks you are able to take.
– Who are your partners? Who needs what you have to offer? Who has a vested interest in partnering with you, with this being a relationship that is mutually rewarding? Who can support you in the ways you need to be supported? This takes self-awareness.
– What are your other priorities? How do you integrate them with this priority? What sacrifices need to be made in the short term? In light of these priorities what does a win really look like for you?
– How are you presenting the value of what you are offering? Have you listened to and considered the needs of each stakeholder? What does each stakeholder need – recognition, to uphold tradition, a chance to lead, a chance to make a change, a chance to build credibility, a chance to learn/experiment, certainty, uncertainty, legacy etc – and how can you give this to them?
– What do you know about yourself? and then the other? How can you strengthen your partnership, building on where you are the same, and bridging/optimizing your differences so that they become assets?
– What is your end goal? How can you be in the game over the long run? This may require the less obvious choice in the short term for a more rewarding long term end.
– Who is your community?
– What do you need to measure to know if it’s working or not? What experiments do you need to run to optimize what you are doing? Do the data support your assumptions? For example, you may ask – When you changed X how did it affect Y? Why did Z succeed? Why did Q fail? Of the ABCD complement which is most productive? would you rather drop D and go with ABC or drop A and go with BCD or maybe introduce E?
We all make these mental moves intuitively, however it is quite powerful to develop these skills and keep refining them. It improves the way you process your experiences, it widens your perception of opportunities and makes every experience a little testing ground, in which sense there is no failure, only learning. It also bridges the dreamer and doer in you and in so doing is quite empowering. If you can think reflectively and strategically, then you are better placed to act thoughtfully.