If we define Strategic Thinking as a broad perspective analysis of opportunities and problems, one might assume that this process is solely rooted in striving for operational efficiency and building on past success. Strategy can bring to mind associated words such as logic, analytical, and data indicating this is a process wholly owned by the left brain. However, if the goal of strategic thinking is to win in the marketplace, a good portion of the thought process needs to incorporate creativity.
Creative Thinking, as defined by businessdictionary.com, is ‘a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.’ Or by Harvard Business Publications as, ‘the ability to generate fresh alternatives, visualize new possibilities, and formulate novel approaches to getting things done.’
Regardless of how exactly one would like to define it, the important concept to grasp is that one must let go of orthodoxy and question the ‘status quo’, assumptions, and deeply held practices to be able to gain an edge on the competition. This was also reinforced by IBM’s 2010 CEO study which found that creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business.
So, here are 4 steps to help you think outside the box in a business strategy session:
1. Challenge Assumptions: this is the process of identifying and dissecting notions that the organization has taken for granted. The purpose is to clear the way for fresh possibilities.
2. Reverse the Situation: change a negative statement to a positive, define what the situation is ‘not’ like and why, and finally, change the vantage point of viewing the situation.
3. Think Visually: if a picture or a symbol is worth a thousand words, try unlocking the creative process by putting ideas into shapes, images, colors, and single words. This may help identify unseen associations and ideas clumped in unique ways.
4. Envision Multiple Scenarios: to avoid potential costly reactionary responses to the marketplace, try envisioning multiple IFTTT or ‘If This Than That’ scenarios in order to anticipate long term trends that will gain your business the edge.
Remember, whole brain thinking isn’t news; however, it is a great reminder that to be a successful leader, the right brain needs to contribute in complex decisions as well.