Strategic Thinking Skills Strategic Thinking: Definition The Importance of Developing Strategic Thinking Skills The Main Qualities of Strategic Thinkers How to Improve Strategic Thinking Skills Questions to get better in decision making Books for strategic thinkers How to Highlight Your Strategic Thinking Skills Final Thoughts
Strategic Thinking Skills Strategic Thinking: Definition The Importance of Developing Strategic Thinking Skills The Main Qualities of Strategic Thinkers How to Improve Strategic Thinking Skills Questions to get better in decision making Books for strategic thinkers How to Highlight Your Strategic Thinking Skills Final Thoughts
Updated 27/07/2020

Strategic Thinking Skills

Wondering how to improve strategic thinking skills and gain an advantage over other employees? Get familiar with the ways to boost this soft skill and tips to highlight it on a resume and a cover letter.

Wondering how to improve strategic thinking skills and gain an advantage over other employees? Get familiar with the ways to boost this soft skill and tips to highlight it on a resume and a cover letter.

At the World Economic Forum which was held in January 2016, strategic thinking was ranked the second most important skill necessary to become a good specialist and occupy leadership positions. However, according to CCL, only 4-7% of leaders are considered to have strong strategic thinking skills which shows that even CEOs of multi-million companies may lack this proficiency.

So what is strategic thinking? In simple words, it is a skill which helps to plan the future. In this article, we’ll share tips on how to improve the related qualities, how to develop strategic thinking skills, and how to show them on a resume and cover letter to get a job.


Strategic Thinking: Definition

Strategic thinking is one of the most important and most desired soft skills in the workplace. It shows how you process information and make decisions that influence both your personal and business life. It is the capability to think outside the box and come up with new solutions and the ability to see opportunities that others have missed. In the demanding labor market, strategic thinking can give you a huge advantage over other candidates.

This process of thinking strategically requires analytical thinking, research, innovation, communication, problem-solving skills, and even discipline. Strategic thinking is applied in situations like planning what college to attend to build a successful career easier or the steps to take to learn a foreign language faster.

One of the brightest examples of strategic thinking is Amazon. This multinational company has changed our perception of e-commerce and shopping once and for good. They offer drone drop-offs, Sunday deliveries, and prime subscriptions to motivate people to buy more. The company created a viable plan of action and a long-term strategy to outperform its competitors. And none of this would have been possible without strategic thinkers on the team.


The Importance of Developing Strategic Thinking Skills

It is extremely important to develop a strategic mindset if you want to move up the career ladder or start your own enterprise. To remain competitive, you need to adapt to the constantly changing conditions of the marketplace and to be able to make quick decisions. Correct strategic thinking includes operational and strategic planning and gives answers to such questions as What, How, Why, and When. Thus, significantly increasing your chances to succeed.

Brian Hill, the author of such popular books as Attracting Capital from Angels and The Making of Bestseller, says that strategic thinking is what differentiates a successful enterprise and an unsuccessful one. This writer and entrepreneur thinks that being able to see market changes, notice opportunities, and create a viable strategy in advance are the necessary components of any leader and business owner.

However, this doesn’t mean that strategic thinking is only for leaders or huge corporations. Here are just a few jobs which require this skill:

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Digital marketing managers
  • Creative strategists
  • Financial analysts
  • Project managers
  • Delivery executives
  • Marketers
  • Logisticians
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The Main Qualities of Strategic Thinkers

Think about a person you consider a leader. Did you choose them because of intelligence or the ability to manage teams? Or maybe you think that they are innovative and always two steps ahead? If the model leader possesses the qualities above, they definitely have a strategic mindset. Below we will share features which determine a strategic thinker:

  • They are constantly learning. Strategic thinkers never miss a chance to study and evolve. They learn from personal experiences and from books, networks, presentations, conferences, and watching others.
  • They are risk-takers. Strategic thinkers try new ideas, innovative approaches, and the non-beaten path, ready to face both success and failure.
  • They appreciate feedback. Healthy criticism helps to improve strategies and polish ideas.
  • They can use both the logical and creative side of their brains (according to the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning).
  • They are creative. These specialists think outside the box and offer original ideas.
  • They are flexible. Strategic thinkers are able to adjust to any situation or problem and usually have several plans depending on the circumstances.
  • They are hardworking. To be a successful strategic thinker, it’s important to keep multiple aspects in mind: modern state of affairs, the prognosis for the future, goals of the company and personnel. This takes time and effort.
  • They are able to define objectives clearly and break them down into tasks with a list of necessary resources and specific deadlines.
  • They can disconnect. Strategic thinkers devote time for themselves whether in a form of a retreat, a weekend in nature, or simply relaxing by the fireplace.
  • They know what balance is. As you know from the critical thinking definition, this skill suggests working with huge volumes of information and ideas. However, experienced critical thinkers know how to balance creativity and realism in order to achieve long-term goals.
  • They are non-judgmental. Critical thinkers can remain patient without rushing to conclusions or judgments. They know the value of their own ideas and thoughts and can appreciate the vision and concepts of others.

How to Improve Strategic Thinking Skills

In 2018, Constant Contact surveyed 1,005 business owners and found that 63% plan only a year (or even less) in advance. To outlast the competition and to become a valuable member of the team, it’s important to plan ahead and boost your strategic thinking skills. Here are a few useful tips:

1. Find time to evolve

According to the Center of Management & Organization Effectiveness, one of the biggest challenges of development is not being able to focus on strategic tasks because of too many day-to-day assignments. Yes, it’s important to solve daily issues, but you should find enough time to concentrate on the future. Here are a few tips on how to find time and energy to fit progress into your routine:

  • Understand that it is well-spent time. You are investing in personal and corporate progress meaning that it is a win-win situation.
  • Discover any prejudices or anxiety which may hold you back.
  • Create a work schedule and fit in at least half an hour for progress and development.

2. Prioritize the tasks

You should have a list of short- and long-term tasks. Go over them and decide which can wait and which should be solved immediately. Generate ideas to contribute to the decision. Choose the task which can provide bigger benefits today and leave less important tasks for the future. Ask yourself ‘What task can I do today that will generate the maximum benefit?’

3. Know your prejudices

People have biases that may lead to wrong decisions. Explore your thoughts and mind critically to make sure that any biases are logical and not old patterns which served you in the past. Eliminating flawed thinking significantly improves critical and strategic mindset. Here are the questions you may ask yourself:

  • What are the circumstances?
  • Am I realistic?
  • What other points should I consider?
  • What does my point of view mean?

4. Consider the consequences

Every decision has a consequence. Don’t lose sight of the potential impact an idea may have on you and on the company. This stage is extremely important to make the final decision. Luckily, with time and practice, it becomes easier. Make sure you can predict several scenarios and check whether they are rational. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the pros and cons of the idea?
  • What does every idea mean?
  • Which one will help to meet the goals in the best way?
  • Which option has the best long-term opportunities?

5. Work on questioning skills

You should learn to question everything that surrounds you: collect and evaluate facts and decide whether the decision is rational. If you take your time to question the concept, it will be much easier to make a strategic choice. Here are things to consider:

  • Make sure that the idea is well-thought.
  • Check whether the source can be trusted. Does it come from a reputable expert?
  • Find credible arguments to support the idea.

6. Develop listening skills

After realizing that your ideas and concepts may have flaws, you should become an active listener. Communicate with co-workers, employers, and other specialists, who can teach you new techniques and skills. Be open-minded and gratefully accept advice and feedback.

7. Attend forums and seminars, or watch them online

Attend events held by public speakers, psychologists, strategic thinkers, and other specialists that may supply you with useful information and fresh ideas. Or stay at home and find videos on YouTube. For example, on TEDx and Actualized.

8. Complete training courses on Coursera

Currently, there are lots of courses for strategic thinkers held by leading institutions like Yale University and the University of Virginia. For example, Design Thinking for Innovation, Business Strategy, and Strategic Management and Innovation.

Strategic thinking is becoming a deciding factor in who remains a performer and who becomes a leader. It doesn’t matter whether you are an executive, a manager, or an entrepreneur, it’s necessary to improve your strategic thinking skills on a daily basis.


Questions to get better in decision making

Here are some questions that will help to make better decisions when thinking about a problem, issue, strategy, or event:

  1. Why should we care about the problem?
  2. What happens if we don’t solve the issue?
  3. What results are we trying to achieve?
  4. What are my prejudices and interests on the issue?
  5. Who will the decision impact the most? How?
  6. What are the pros and cons of the decision?
  7. What’s the worst outcome of the decision? Will we be able to overcome it?
  8. What other options do we have? Are they viable?
  9. What is my strategic vision?
  10. What are the next turning points of our company? What should we do to not miss them?
  11. Is our human capital strategy consistent with the organizational strategy?
  12. Do we listen to our stakeholders and know about their needs and desires?
  13. What activities can we do to increase the company’s performance?
  14. What things influence my decision making the most?
  15. What strategic analysis models should we apply to evaluate the environment?
  16. Why should our strategic partners cooperate with us?
  17. What does my department need to start working more effectively?
  18. Do our employees feel comfortable in the company? What can we do to help them feel more valued?
  19. What are our performance management standards?
  20. Is our human capital strategy effective?

Books for strategic thinkers

Strategic thinking is an art that can be learned, and the best source is books. Here are a few to consider:

  • Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt
  • Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff
  • Ahead of the Curve by Philip Delves Broughton
  • Strategic Thinking: A Comprehensive Guide by Frederick Betz
  • Learning to Think Strategically by Julia Sloan
  • Creative Strategy: A Guide for Innovation by William Duggan
  • Strategy Safari by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, and Joseph Lampel
  • Strategy by B.H. Liddell Hart

How to Highlight Your Strategic Thinking Skills

When working on a resume or a cover letter, it can be quite challenging to put all your abilities on paper. Especially when it concerns soft skills like strategic thinking. Start with structuring the resume to let the potential employer focus on the message you are willing to convey. Devote separate groups for skills, achievements, education, and work experience, structuring them in chronological or reverse-chronological order. This already shows the strategy in creating the document.

Another useful tip is taking enough time to think. Add a few hours to your daily schedule to reflect on the things you want to convey. This will allow you to focus on your strengths and tailor the future resume to the needs of the company.

Finally, never neglect the importance of a cover letter. This is the best way not only to demonstrate your strong strategic thinking skill, but to explain why you are a perfect match for the company and how they may benefit from hiring you. If you are still not sure how to do it on your own, we are ready to help.

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Powerful phrases to add for highlighting your strategic thinking

  • Designed analysis and financial models related to business development strategies;
  • Conducted user-based research following strategic design;
  • Developed marketing strategies and branding ideas;
  • Created user-centered content for managers, executives, and consumers;
  • Generated creative ideas to maximize customer engagement on social media.

Skills related to strategic thinking

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Project management
  • Data analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving
  • Google Analytics
  • Change Management

Final Thoughts

Improving strategic thinking will not only teach you how to generate more ideas and to boost decision making, it will also help to become a better leader and to stand out among other employees. It offers numerous ways to improve and allows you to achieve career success and acknowledgment.

Work on your strategic thinking skills, read books, talk to role models, and make sure to highlight these proficiencies on a resume and cover letter. And if you want to land an interview in the company of your dreams, take advantage of professional resume and cover letter builders.

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