BY SYLVIA KOHL
Strategic thinking is among the highest-valued skills on any employer’s list, yet there is far less unanimity as to what this term means. How does one achieve it is even less obvious – and these two questions are exactly what we will tackle here.
In its most general definition, having strategic thinking means being able to analyze a situation, separate important from unimportant, properly prioritize your actions and make the most reasonable decisions possible in a current situation based on known info.
Despite it being such important skills, colleges rarely make conscious efforts toward developing it in students – which means that you should take matters into your own hands.
1. Broaden Your Horizons
The mental outlook of people capable of strategic thinking is often described as T-shaped. T’s vertical bar represents deep and constantly deepening knowledge and professionalism in their primary area of expertise. The horizontal bar represents the breadth of their knowledge, often seemingly unrelated to their core competencies. Knowing things outside your central area of expertise will give you a broader outlook on life and the ability to make decisions based on a bigger picture.
2. Try Social Trading
In short, social trading means copying financial transactions made by professional investors on the scale available to you. This way, even if you have no experience whatsoever in finance, economy and the stock market, you will be able to follow the success of those who know what they are doing. The idea has been around for quite some time, but it is the development of the Internet that made it possible for almost anybody (a step-by-step guide by InvestinGoal explains it in more detail).
It is beneficial for strategic thinking for two reasons. Firstly, it puts you in a position where you can follow the actions of those more financially capable than you are. Secondly, it teaches you to see patterns that, in the course of time, will help you make better long-term decisions.
3. Volunteer to Lead a Project
By taking a leading role in a project done by several students, each with his own special strengths and weaknesses, you will be forced to learn how to work in a team, take these individual features into account, solve inevitable problems on the fly, take responsibility and think out of the box. If you are hesitant to challenge yourself this way, it means that you should do it all the more.
4. Always Look for New Training Opportunities
One of the primary characteristics of a strategic thinker is being a life-long learner rather than one satisfied with status quo. The education you are getting in college is going to be barely enough to get you anywhere in the professional world – and, at the same time, while you are in college, you have a treasure-trove of opportunities to learn. Seminars, lectures by visiting professors and well-known specialists in their fields, additional courses – if you see anything offered by your college that can come in handy in your career, grab it.
5. See World through the Eyes of Other People
Discuss your ideas with other people. What is even more important, try to talk to people who think differently from you, who had different life experiences and came from different backgrounds. The greater the differences between you, the more valuable will be the insights brought by them – and the more often you communicate with people who are wildly different from you, the more capable you will be of breaking free from your ingrained and often subjective thought processes.
Of course, developing strategic thinking isn’t limited to any several techniques – but these approaches will give you a good start.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.