Strategic awareness is critical to strategic thinking. This includes not just awareness of the immediate situation, but awareness of a wide range of internal and external factors that you can use to guide the future direction of your organization.
Three key attributes in people that have strategic awareness.
First, they consume information prodigiously.
It’s not unusual at all to find great strategic thinkers have wide ranging knowledge. Often, they will have a passing acquaintance with all kinds of subjects and deep, deep interest in several of those. You’ll find such people are more likely to read a lot – and often, they consume information sources by listening and watching media as well.
Second, they listen to everything – even things they disagree with.
Ninety percent of good strategy is listening and ten percent is completely ignoring what people tell you. The great thing, of course, is to choose which 90% to listen to. Regardless, good strategic thinkers seldom assume they have all the information and listen actively to anyone they think will offer new insight into the organization, their competition, or their markets.
Third, they notice significant analogies between different situations.
Many great strategic insights begin like this: “Our business is just like a…”. What it’s like will vary, but it can be a duck pond, an anthill, or a carnival ride. Seeing how the business situation is like such different things shows a flexible and creative understanding of the business and the world in general. The key to this skill is the ability to see connections and analogies in many different situations.
An important question some readers may ask is “How can I develop strategic awareness?”
Here are a few ideas that may help you develop strategic awareness.
First, read, especially outside of your field of expertise.
Read histories, books about science, or read to learn a new skill. Hence, read anything that broadens your view may lead to better strategic awareness.
Second, learn to suspend judgment when hearing new information – and focus especially on listening to different viewpoints.
When people are telling you things, do your best to incorporate the information into your understanding of the world. This is especially true in your business and is more important the higher you are in an organization.
Third, spend time paying attention to things outside of your business.
Play chess, observe other industries – anything that may give you insights into systems that work, or those that fail to work.
Finally, it must be said that an open mind makes strategic awareness easier.
If you are open to new insights and the simple practice of not doing anything but letting your mind wander over ideas and possibilities can inspire the most profound ideas. This is why some time that is not scheduled for any other activities can be a great way to increase your creative productivity.
If you’d like to learn more about strategic thinking and more specifically how to develop strategic awareness, Simplified Strategic Planning is a great place to start. For great ideas on how to improve the quality of your planning, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider holding a one-day workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning.
Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.