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5 Ways To Develop Strategic Thinking Skills

5 Ways To Develop Strategic Thinking Skills

5 minute read | January 31, 2024
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White

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Strategic thinking is pivotal in navigating the complexities of today’s dynamic business landscape. Today’s business environment is predominantly dominated by change – fueled by disruptive technological advancements – and strategic thinking skills are critical to functioning successfully amidst these forces.

Yet, most workforces lack this vital skill set. A recent survey by Springboard for Business (SB4B) sheds light on the escalating concern surrounding skills gaps. Startlingly, 40% of corporate leaders acknowledge that the skills gap has worsened in the past year. Moreover, the SB4B Survey indicates that more than one-third of these leaders believe the shelf life of hard skills is currently under two years, emphasizing the urgency for proactive measures in skill development.

While hard skills are fleeting (with a shelf life as short as two years for some capabilities), soft skills like cognitive thinking are future-proof, remaining necessary regardless of technical needs.

Understanding the significance of strategic thinking goes beyond the individual — it’s about the organization as a whole. By fostering a culture of strategic thinking, businesses create a unified vision that transcends hierarchical boundaries. This unity aligns employees with the company’s overarching goals and empowers them to actively contribute to its strategic objectives.

From the personal growth it fosters to the tangible business benefits it yields, developing strong strategic thinking skills is an investment that pays dividends for both individuals and the organizations they serve. Here’s how you can level up your employees’ strategic thinking skills.

What Are Strategic Thinking Skills?

Strategic thinking is a crucial set of skills that equips individuals to navigate the complexities of the contemporary business landscape. Let’s explore the core skills integral to strategic thinking:

  • Analytical skills. Analytical skills involve the adept analysis of information and data to unveil key trends and patterns. Strategic thinkers excel in assessing the impact of external factors on business, providing insights into market dynamics. Evaluating risks and opportunities, strategically aligned with KPIs and OKRs is a hallmark of analytical proficiency.
  • Visioning and long-term planning. This involves setting clear goals and objectives, and ensuring they’re measurable and aligned with the organization’s overarching vision. Beyond goal setting, strategic thinkers excel in forming comprehensive strategies that navigate the path toward long-term objectives.
  • Problem-solving and decision-making. Individuals proficient in strategic thinking evaluate diverse options and potential outcomes when making a decision. They actively consider various perspectives and viewpoints, fostering a decision-making process grounded in analysis and evidence to ensure sound and informed results.
  • Adaptability and change management. Recognizing and adapting to changing market conditions is a cornerstone of strategic thinking. This involves implementing strategic changes effectively, minimizing disruption to operations, and achieving improved results as fast as possible. This work ethic also builds organizational resilience and agility, creating an environment that embraces and thrives on change.

How To Develop Strategic Thinking Skills at Your Company

1. Establish a Baseline

To cultivate strategic thinking skills within your team, establish a baseline of individual and team capacities. You can start this process by encouraging employees to self-assess their strategic thinking skills, identify improvement areas, and set personal development goals.

Creating space for this crucial step not only fosters self-awareness but also begins to embed the significance of strategic thinking in your team’s culture. Encourage employees to seek feedback from colleagues and managers, promoting a collaborative approach to skill enhancement. 

2. Make Room for Opposing Ideas

Fostering a culture of robust strategic thinking involves embracing diverse perspectives and challenging conventional thoughts. By actively playing the role of devil’s advocate within your team and encouraging others to do the same, you can challenge assumptions and stimulate critical thinking.

Create structured spaces for employees to be exposed to a diversity of thought. This could manifest through formal DEIB activities or more team-centric strategies. For instance, consider gathering for a group brainstorming session at the onset of each project, where all ideas are welcomed for a period of time without objection. This fuels creative thinking and gets employees more involved and invested in projects. Plus, the more opinions and ideas you consider, the more well-rounded and thorough your strategic decision-making will be. 

3. Train the Analytical Mind

In business, strategic thinking is intrinsically linked to analytical thinking. To train your team’s analytical mind, create a culture that prioritizes data in decision-making, making it a cornerstone of your team’s approach to problem-solving.

Ensure all employees have a solid foundation in data literacy by providing training and resources. This empowers individuals to interpret and leverage data effectively in their strategic thinking processes. Additionally, hone questioning and problem-solving skills, encouraging a mindset that critically evaluates information, identifies key trends, and navigates complexities with a data-driven perspective. 

By instilling these analytical skills across your team or organization, you fortify the foundation for strategic thinking and normalize informed evidence-based decisions.

4. Make Time for Strategic Thinking Skill Development

To successfully upskill your workforce, it’s essential to dedicate time to developing strategic thinking skills. Integrating formal training programs into day-to-day work allows employees to truly put their work down and focus on training — rather than simply rushing through an online seminar so they can get back to their tasks. 

Programs such as Springboard for Business’s Data-Driven Strategic Thinking course are designed to equip employees with the tools to frame and structure problems systematically, fostering the ability to methodically solve complex business challenges. Participants work on a project designed in partnership with their manager that tackles a real business problem, providing crucial opportunities to put new skills into practice right away.

5. Actively Practice and Apply Strategic Thinking Skills

One of the most integral elements of training in strategic thinking is the transition from theory to practical application within your team.

In courses like Springboard’s Data-Driven Strategic Thinking, participants engage in hands-on, job-related projects. This direct application, whether solving a critical business problem, optimizing a process, or launching a new initiative, reinforces their newly acquired skills and generates immediate business impact.

Beyond formalized training, creating opportunities for collaborative strategic thinking in team- and company-wide settings is useful. Encourage collaborative goal setting so employees can learn from each other by sharing diverse approaches to tackling business challenges. 

This collective practice deepens individual strategic thinking abilities and cultivates a shared ethos of innovation and forward-thinking within the organization.

This post summarizes findings from Springboard for Business’s The State of the Workforce Skills Gap 2024.

Springboard surveyed over 1,000 corporate professionals working at companies with at least 5,000 employees to understand where their workforce transformation priorities lie, how skills gaps are thwarting progress, and what employees are most eager to learn.

To grab a free copy of the full report, click here.

Since you’re here…
Springboard for Business grows businesses by empowering leaders and their teams with the critical thinking, data, and technology skills central to the future of work. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, HP, JPMorgan Chase, and Visa have partnered with Springboard for Business to upskill and reskill employees around the world. Click here to learn more.

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.