How can you tell if you, or someone you know, is a strategic thinker?
These phrases and sentences will give you a clue!
Some of them are by very famous strategic thinkers, see if you resonate.
1) “I was just learning about….”
Strategic thinkers are always curious and always learning. If you or someone you know is committed to continual learning and self-development, then that’s a big hint.
Learning can come from many places – books and classes, other people, past experiences, networking events, and even from children! Wherever there is inspiration to be found, the strategic thinker is looking and learning.
2) “What’s your opinion about…”
One of the best ways to learn from other people is to actively seek out their advice and opinions.
Strategic thinkers know that they don’t have all the answers, and so they cast their net wide.
They don’t take things personally and they welcome advice and feedback from others. They test out their hypotheses on other people, and refine and improve them, until they have the most effective strategy.
What do you think about this? (See what I did there?!)
3) “What are we here to accomplish?”
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the details. To be a strategic thinker, it’s important to zoom out, but to also stay focused on what your overall goal is.
Warren Buffett, famous investor and business magnate, became known as the “Oracle of Omaha”. However, it’s not about being some kind of psychic but rather about sticking to key long-term principles. This is his favorite saying:
“Rule number one: Never lose money. Rule number two: Never forget rule number one.”
This saying emphasizes the importance of prioritizing capital preservation and making investment decisions that minimize losses and maximize long-term returns.
4) “Start with why”
Before you can zoom out, you need to zoom in.
Inspirational speaker Simon Sinek wrote a best-selling book called “Start with WHY”.
But, why? Well, Simon had hit a rough patch in his work life. He’d lost all the excitement and passion he once had for his job.
Then, something incredible happened. Simon stumbled upon this thing called “starting with why.” And guess what? It completely turned his life around! I’m talking major transformation here, in ways he never even dreamed of.
Now, what makes a good ‘why statement’? It’s pretty simple.
A ‘why statement’ should be easy to understand and reflect who you truly are. Your ‘why’ should encompass every single aspect of your life, not just your work. It’s like your essence, your true identity.
Knowing your values, priorities, purpose, and beliefs allows you to make great decisions.
Once you’ve got your why, figuring out the rest of the puzzle becomes much easier!
5) “Let’s find the win/win solution”
The strategic thinker knows that every situation, be it a relationship or business, is better when all parties come out feeling happy. Despite that, this kind of thinking is often under-prioritized in workplaces and even in romantic or family relationships.
Indra Nooyi is one of business’s most respected and strategic leaders, and has been named by Forbes as one of the “100 Most Powerful Women” and in Fortune as “Most Powerful Women in Business.”
Indra is known for her focus on profitability and environmental sustainability, using the saying “Performance with Purpose.” This emphasizes sustainable growth and making a positive impact in the world, whilst still keeping a keen eye on the bottom line.
She’s also a strong advocate for gender equality and diversity.
By simultaneously prioritizing profit and doing good, Indra does what a lot of businesses fail to do – finding a win/win solution for the company, shareholders, her employees, and the world!
6) “Change before you have to”
The phrase has been famously used by General Electric CEO Jack Welch who continuously seeks opportunities for improvement, in order to stay ahead in business.
It shows the difference between reactive solutions and proactive solutions. Essentially, it’s about anticipating change before it’s needed.
I once met a guy with a social enterprise business who would anticipate problems and then prepare for them in advance, when there isn’t a stressful situation to deal with.
In short, avoid crisis mode!
This simple but important strategy really changed the way I ran my business, encouraging me to do things like update my website well before it becomes obsolete. I’d rather do that than wake up one day and realize that nothing works!
7) “We can do this!”
In the 2015 refugee crisis, the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel famously said ‘wir schaffen das’. Meaning that she would open the borders to millions of Syrian refugees.
This saying is important because it shows that strategic thinkers know that sometimes they have to get everyone to support a common cause or goal with optimism.
Interestingly, Merkel demonstrated her flexibility by dropping the saying a year later, saying that it had been said so often that it had become “a simple slogan, an almost meaningless formula.”
Why? She recognized that these once inspirational words had also begun to provoke some people, and so, strategically, she changed tack when needed.
8) “Done is better than perfect.”
This is a quote from Sherly Sandberg, Meta’s CEO for 12 years, and founder of her own business. “Done is better than perfect” was famously printed on the walls of Facebook as the antidote to perfection and procrastination.
You can have the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t implement it, it’s worthless. Yet many of us feel held back from even starting, from a wish to make things perfect.
I first learned about this mindset in the world of tech where people talk about creating an MVP or ‘Minimum Viable Product’ and I find it super helpful.
So, if you are starting a website or building an app, aim for the simplest working model of what you and your audience want.
You can apply this phrase to almost anything. Just keep reminding yourself of the words while you plan, work and create.
Then you will be off to a great start! You can always go for a bit of perfectionism later, when you already have something tangible.