Strategic thinking aims to add value to your business, maximize your resources and act as a catalyst for positive change. It doesn’t just automatically happen. Organizations must actively work to create an environment that is conducive to it. In this four-part series we examine four basic conditions that foster strategic thinking, including shifting from a transactional mindset; suspend problem-solving; disrupt your thinking, and explore the broader context.
In Part 3 of this series, we examine a more personal practice of disrupting your thinking.
Sometimes our habits are the biggest obstacle to creating a culture of strategic thinking. Over time we develop patterns key to our success, and we depend on them, but they can also limit us. As we take on greater responsibility, the transactional mindset and our problem-solving processes often force a “go-to” person role on us that closes off our ability to think strategically.
Leaders tell us they feel pressure to be the answer person when working with their teams. This is especially frustrating when they have hired or promoted the best folks expressly to relieve this burden. But these “go-to” person moments are the perfect opportunity to disrupt your thinking and create a new pattern modeling strategic thinking.
A Simple Act to Disrupt Your Thinking (and maybe others too)
Rather than resolving the issue or problem under discussion or making a decision to expedite the meeting, just stop and ask a question. The simple act of seeking exploration over closure will disrupt your internal problem-solution pattern and set the stage for new thinking. Asking a question also offers the opportunity for others to show their ability to resolve the issue without your input and demonstrates your desire to hear their thoughts and ideas. If they struggle to respond, then you have the opportunity to do it again; ask another question and guide their strategic exploration rather than being the go-to gal (or guy). Sometimes people just need an encouraging nudge to speak up or come forward with an idea.
This can be difficult at first, especially if you are “seasoned” in the area under discussion. Your experience and position may pose an intimidating figure. Stopping to let others “play around” may seem like a horrible waste of time at that moment, but give it a chance. You may be surprised to find that you have buried or forgotten more about the area than you are aware. You may even have out of date assumptions that should be examined. By disrupting your go-to solutions, you may discover new and better options. More importantly, those new options may stimulate a discussion to an entirely new approach and begin to nurture strategic thinking in your group.
Examples of questions to disrupt your thinking:
- What would our competitor do?
- What would happen if we did nothing?
- Have we tried this before?
- What’s new about this issue/approach?
- Is this a symptom of a larger issue?
- How would you solve this if I weren’t here?
The “pose a question” tactic can provide the little spark needed for you to see something new AND important.
Strategic thinking helps organizations stay vital and on the edge of catching the next wave, but it’s not automatic, and it’s not always easy. We have lots of tools that help you be successful.