My son is home from college. He attends school at the other end of the nation, so having him home is a big deal for me.
Last night, he was in a talkative mood, which I suspect is unusual for most 19-year-old men (it’s certainly unusual for him). While hearing all about his various classes and projects, I was surprised to find that much of what he is doing in school has an element of strategy to it.
He’s studying game programming, which sounds like it would be all fun and, well, games — but I think it’s actually harder than my general comp-sci studies from years ago.
Strategy and long-term thinking seem embedded into the core curriculum of his school. In comparison, my traditional Comp-Sci degree had no strategy classes.
Having a mind for strategy at such a young age is great! It’s taken me decades to learn to focus my planning on long-term results, rather than short-term gain.
Why is strategy important? Because it’s proactive, not reactive. It puts YOU and I in control of our future. Strategic people think, plan, and act before some outside stimulus forces them to take a reactive position. Strategic thinkers are among the most highly effective leaders.
Here are three basic components of strategic thinking – what would you add to this list?
Think about the future
This is obvious, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some of us have this embedded in our DNA. Even as a kid I would weigh the short-term benefit of doing something bad (but fun) against the longer-term punishment that could happen. The result was I rarely acted out, and when I did it wasn’t fun at all, since I worried about the consequences.
In general, I think people who are naturally inclined to follow the rules typically think more about long-term consequences, as compared to anything-for-fun types, who focus more on the “here and now” (short-term gain). As with most things, I suspect having a balance of both is best.
Look beyond your own little world
It’s hard to think about the BIG picture, when your vision is limited to a three-foot circle around you. I know people who have teeny-tiny comfort zones. These people are NOT strategic thinkers. They have other gifts that probably don’t include setting long-range plans.
The more you know of the “outside world”, the greater your reach and the more “outside” knowledge you can adapt to meet your “inside” needs. This allows for more creative solutions when working on complex problems.
Never (Ever Ever) stop learning
Here’s something I’ve noticed recently…
EXPERIENCE (the older I get) + SKILL (the more I learn) = more “connections” to solve problems
I think of a strategist as someone who is able to make connections to solve some sort of challenge — specifically in ways others might miss.
Stuff I learned years ago may not be useful until I have some experience that connects that lesson to some current need. This is one reason why I still LOVE learning new things — it opens up a whole new category of pathways for creative thinking.
When we put these components together, we combine a long-term view of the future with a wide-ranging view of the environment and an ongoing increase of knowledge — which combines with intuition to help us make the BEST possible strategic decisions. Good strategy simply points you/your team/your company toward the best positive outcome.
What would you add?