A recent study of the work habits revealed that 80% of executives studied do not feel they have enough time for strategic thinking or creative thinking. Leadership requires innovative thinking. An organization cannot continue indefinitely working on the programs established five years ago. Someone must think about the future; someone must suggest a course of action. You have probably encountered a changing world where the rules from three years ago don’t apply today.
Creative thinking is the capacity to develop original thought; see things from a new perspective and apply nonlinear thinking. Creative thinking is sometimes impractical; however it may well be that the impractical thought must occur before breakthrough thinking can be discovered. I often find that I have to throw out stacks of creative work in order to discover an effort that I consider brilliant.
Strategic thinking is an applied forward thinking. Strategic thinking often considers the impact of changing forces in the environment, as well as low probability outcomes. A person who is good at strategic thinking must have a creative thinking skill. To distinguish the two styles of thinking, strategic thinking is concerned with the future, while most creative thinking may be applied to the present set of circumstances.
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A failure to add strategic thinking to one’s duties means that the organization will be poorly equipped to meet the challenges of the future. If no one is providing creative or strategic thought, then the organization is doomed to be a dinosaur. It will be extinct in the face of world changes.
Creative and strategic thinking, although not the same things are both examples of divergent thinking practices. Divergent thinking is the practice of finding new, different solutions, of seeing things in a different way. Divergent thinking is not hard – however many people are out of practice. Here is some good news – with a little bit of applied effort, over time, just about everyone will improve in their ability to think creatively and strategically. Practice helps one become better.
Training the mind to think divergently is desirable and possible. I think that strategic thinking is enhanced when several people who opt for a positive mindset apply their strategic thinking toward a common purpose. Being around other divergent thinkers enhances the skill.
Business Coaching for Strategic Thinking
How can a busy executive find time to think creatively and strategically? If the executive is a leader this time will be precious, and sometimes should be scheduled every week for this purpose. To work as a leader, strategic thinking is necessary. It will be vital for the executive leader to practice creative and strategic thinking all the time. Creative and innovative thought arises naturally and do not respond well to emergency situations!
Think creatively in small groups. Encourage creative thinking with other business leaders. Dedicate ten minutes to creative thought out of an hour standing business meeting. If the topic focuses on spreadsheets and financial reports, then find some time at the beginning or the end of the meeting to look for creative viewpoints. Appoint one person to be in charge of raising a discussion topic, one that encourages fantastic thinking. Get every member of the small group to think creatively – out loud – for a period of at least two minutes. Rotate this assignment, so everyone is not speaking at once. Give a reward – perhaps a ribbon – to the person who thinks the most creatively.
Creative thinking, every week! Make this a weekly habit of speaking out loud in front of other people on a creative discussion topic. Don’t worry about being silly or imaginative. Sometimes the silly has to emerge before the practical can be coaxed out of hiding. Expect to have creative thinking session every week, and it will get easier.
Practice scenario thinking. Occasionally, discuss unlikely future turns of events – and treat them seriously. Consider how the unlikely future may have an outcome on your business. Some unlikely scenarios might be: what if the city you work in was flooded for six-month period; what if the government required everyone to do calisthenics for 20 minutes in the morning together; what if the next Hunger Games movie featured your product or service prominently? Consider the strategic outcomes if one or more of these scenarios happened. The benefit of scenario thinking is to develop a flexible way of thinking – not to anticipate particular outcomes. The flexibility of the mind is important.
Look For What Is Missing. Whenever you hear a serious presentation or watch a PowerPoint presentation, do more than follow the logic of the presenter. Assume that something has been left out. Your job is to discover, “what’s missing?” The missing factor may be in the form of a question that needs answering, or important resource or force is not been brought up. I have often discovered one else notices, “What is missing” – it is too easy to follow a presentation rather hypnotically, and not notice missing details.
Examine your workplace flows for bottlenecks. Take a look at some of the routine flow of work in your business. It is doubtful that all work flows at a continuous, even pace. More likely work will float at some point in your organization and then get backed up, waiting for someone or something to happen. Use your creative thinking skill to consider ways to reduce the bottleneck time and to consider alternate ways to handle the flow of work. Can you find an alternate means to set up workflow that will save 25% of the processing time? Hardly anyone looks at improving a system that works until an outsider comes along and points out that the system could be set up much more efficiently. Take nothing for granted; imagine that you had the authority to change the way everything works. Can you make it faster and more efficient?
Look for ways to practice creative and strategic thinking regularly at your workplace. Be the leader that can see things differently. To achieve this, you should practice divergent thinking, every week. Daily is better! Let the people around you know what you’re doing; let everyone know that you value creative thinking and that it can have practical application. Do your strategic thinking at least every quarter, think about what will be different in three years, and what should be eliminated from the way you work.
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