Anticipate & Adapt: Sharpen Your Strategic Thinking

As an entrepreneur, you’re used to doing it all, from long-term concept planning right down to taking out the trash at the end of the workday. But as your business grows, you begin hiring employees to do more and more of the day-to-day business, and you yourself shift from an execution role to a strategic role, it’s important to have the ability to think strategically. So, what is strategic thinking?

“Strategic thinking is an individual thinking activity that benefits organizations. Its purpose is to discover competitive strategies to position the organization significantly differently from the past. . . . Strategic thinking is thinking that contributes to broad, general, overarching concepts that focus on the future direction of an organization based on anticipated environmental conditions.”

The most effective strategic leaders in any industry know how to anticipate and adapt.

Every leader’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. [However,] if you do that . . . , while you concentrate on steering around the potholes, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff.” Instead, it’s crucial to sharpen your peripheral vision. Having your eye on seemingly insignificant information at the periphery of your industry gives you a strong competitive advantage by allowing you to anticipate the needs and trends of the future long before your competition sees them coming.

Once you are able to gather this information and anticipate certain aspects of the future of the industry, you’ll be much better equipped to adapt to change. Neil Kokemuller uses the hybrid term “strategic adaptability” to explain that “[m]any companies do a good job planning how to operate when things work out as expected. Companies that survive in the long run often plan for flexibility in response to the unexpected.”

In the video below, CEO Howard Schultz provides some additional and very useful insight as to what makes an effective strategic thinker.

Howard Schultz: 6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers