To Think Strategically, First Think Critically

Before there is strategic thinking, there must first be a strong foundation of critical thinking. Strategic thinking is the ability to see the total enterprise, to spot the trends and understand the competitive landscape, to see where the business needs to go and to lead it into the future. That’s the top level of the pyramid. But like all pyramids, it needs a solid base.

Strategic Thinking Pyramid

At the foundation is self-awareness, which arises from the ability to think critically, along with an intellectual openness. Those, in turn, provide the basic business skills – including decision-making, problem-solving, and a solid grasp of both the business and the customers it serves.

The higher one rises in an organization, the more these skills are needed. And as they are developed, they build the next layer up – the ability to embrace change and ambiguity, and in so doing create something new and different. That, in essence, is strategic thinking.

But it all starts with critical thinking. And those who can’t master the basics don’t go far in an organization.