Strategic Thinking: Play the game while observing it as a whole.

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
3 min read

Business leaders are like athletes in that they play the game while simultaneously observing it as a whole.

This is akin to holding two conflicting ideas in one’s head at the same time. F. Scott Fitzgerald recognized how difficult that task is and how much cognitive power it takes.

It is challenging to maintain perspective and see the big picture while not getting lost in the action. The good news is its learnable.

Its only really problematic is we aren’t aware that is what we are tasked with doing. We need to be able to toggle between the macro and the micro without getting stuck.

We need to be able to retain the ability to function. This is the crux of strategic thinking.

It is the challenge of keeping emotional distance while being immersed and engaged on the field. We want to avoid the trap of winning the battle but losing the war.

Leaders develop the ability to think strategically. This takes long-range vision and a sense of the multiplicity of potential futures. Leaders are always scanning the horizon for new developments, threats, and opportunities and thinking about how to either exploit them or defend against them.

Leaders create the vision and managers implement the vision. Both roles take strategic thinking.

The key is to parse and separate the vital few from the trivial many. This takes vision and the discipline to then focus on that vision. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects that dilute your efforts.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

Peter Drucker

Creating the Vision

All enterprises and projects, large or modest, begin in the mind as a vision of the imagination. They emerge from the creative imagination and are nurtured with the conviction that what is a dream can be made real and tangible.

To get from vision to reality takes a practical plan. Strategic thinking is part of this translational process.

Strategic thinking requires a certain mindset. It takes a way of thinking that:

• Embraces change,

• Examines the causal links and outcomes of change, and

• Attempts to steer an organization towards capitalizing on change.

The operative word here is change. Strategic thinking attempts to understand change and exploit it.

Carpe Diem

Strategic thinking is about recognizing opportunities like a favorable time/occasion/moment and leveraging available resources in the most productive manner to exploit it. This is done with the long-term viability and success of the enterprise in mind. You have to be opportunistic and make use of the resources at your disposal.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Strategic thinking is entrepreneurial in its imperative to action and relentless pursuit of opportunity.

Here’s a slide deck that goes over these ideas on strategic thinking.

Strategic Thinking for Competitive Advantage

Leaders, similar to great athletes, must simultaneously play the game and observe it as a whole. Keep perspective and…

Want more?

Check out my book on Strategy.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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