In its simplest form strategy is planning. We have a goal, we develop a plan, and we march toward it.
And sometimes that’s all we need. It’s those times when there’s only one clear focus; when we don’t have to take account of conflicting interests; or when implementation of our plan is the only thing we’re trying to achieve.
If that’s the world you live in that there’s no need to read beyond this sentence.
For the rest of us, you already know that what makes strategy difficult is navigating the often unpredictable business and financial landscape. If nothing impinged on our strategy the biggest cog in the strategic thinking wheel would be how we execute it. But we all know that’s not true.
What really is the biggest cog you ask? A strategic mindset.
The Five-Thousand Year old Fad
Yes, we’ve been hearing a lot about mindset these days. Now we’re told, learning skills aren’t enough, we need to think differently too.
It’s tempting to see mindset work as the new fad, but there’s good reason why mindset is taking centre stage. First off, everyone from Buddhists to Hindus and from Samurai warriors to flower arrangers have used mindfulness to focus their attention.
But mindfulness can do more than that: with practice it can help us see what’s happening, connect those events, and use that insight to inform our strategies.
Insight and Strategic Leadership
The first thing to get straight is this: mindset isn’t a tool. It’s how we think. If we think, we have a mindset.
The kind of mindset I’m talking about is one that helps us gain clarity to see how our immediate actions help or hinder our larger goal. That way of thinking helps us see allies where we now see obstacles; and connections where we now see random events.
It’s isn’t. But that doesn’t make it easy.
A Way of Thinking
In my next blog I’ll focus on the three “steps” of a strategic mindset: see the dots, connect the dots, and make meaning of the dots.
Before we get to that, I’d like to head off a potential challenge.
It’s this: when I talk about steps it’s easy to see those steps as a model or tool. They’re not.
In fact someone using the steps who isn’t at the same time developing their mindset is unlikely to gain anything from seeing the dots. They’d struggle to connect the dots; and as a result divining meaning eludes them.
Before any of that can happen we need a way of thinking. One that is curious. But not curious about how to succeed or make money. Genuinely curious about why things happen as they do.
They’re interested and because of that they see events impacting on the world. That’s their world, the business landscape, the political landscape, and the cultural landscape.
If you’d like a challenge, you could practice that between now and the next blog in about three weeks.
Practice looking at the world and asking why. Look at your industry if you like; look at current affairs if you prefer. Ask why might that event be happening? Who stands to gain? Why are they saying what they’re saying? Is there a subtext? How could you find out?
Next time we’ll think about those steps I mentioned and explore how they work in a strategic mindset.
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