CPD tips - Ways to think more strategically

CPD tips - Ways to think more strategically

07 Apr 2023

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Strategic thinking is a way of achieving a set of goals in a well-reasoned and logical way. It involves understanding the complete landscape of any activity, analysing where the opportunities and challenges lie, and putting together a decisive action plan for success. A big part of this is setting clear and actionable goals, determining how achievable they are and by when. This CPD article will outline what it means to think strategically, why it’s important, and offer key techniques for improving strategic thinking.

What skills can help your strategic thinking?

There are a number of different skills that contribute to the ability to think strategically. These include:

Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate information or opinions thoroughly to reach accurate and insightful conclusions. This is essential to developing your ability to think strategically as it will help you to better understand and interrogate the information you need to make strategic decisions. How to develop critical thinking skills.

Problem-solving skills

To develop a winning strategy, the first step is always understanding the problem that’s trying to be solved. This could be anything from remedying poor performance to improving logistical inefficiencies or earning more leads. Usually, the need for strategic thinking is rooted in solving a problem. Improving your ability to understand and solve problems is a surefire way to improve your strategic mindset. Improve your problem-solving skills.

Planning and management skills

Strategy is finding the best solutions and then building a roadmap to success. As such, having the necessary planning and management skills to be able to implement a strategy is a massive boost to your strategic thinking abilities. With good planning skills, you’ll be able to foresee future logistical challenges that can inform your strategic development.

Improve your strategic thinking abilities

Communication skills

Having the ability to clearly communicate complex ideas to members throughout an organisation and externally is key to implementing any strategy. You can do all the hard work in creating the most robust strategy possible, but if you fail to correctly communicate the findings, you may struggle to achieve the goals you’re setting out to accomplish.

How to think more strategically

1. Ask better questions

One of the most effective ways to improve your strategic thinking skills is to ask more strategic questions. Asking the right questions allows you to see see the full picture of the challenges you face which, in turn, will greatly improve your ability to spot opportunities as well as plan your path more effectively. These questions need to help you challenge any assumptions you might have; make relevant connections, and find patterns and anomalies within the context of your strategy.

Some examples of strategic questions you might ask include:

  • What is the current situation?
  • How did we get to this point?
  • What external factors were key (if any)?
  • What has been our greatest success? Why was it so successful?
  • Are there any trends or identifiable patterns that can be mapped to this point so far?
  • How have competitors been gaining ground? How can we respond?

2. Gather data

Assumptions are useless when it comes to developing a successful strategy. To truly understand the problem you’re trying to overcome and achieve your goals strategically, you need to make insight-driven decisions. For this, you need hard data. Searching the internet for relevant, up-to-date studies that can offer insight is an often useful first step. However, conducting your own targeted research is always preferable, if possible.

Think about what quantitative or qualitative information would be of most use to your strategic mission. This could be conducting an experiment, looking at past test-and-learn trials, conducting a survey or carrying out user testing. Whatever method you use make sure to follow the data and put your biases to one side, particularly confirmation bias (one’s tendency to process or seek out information that is consistent with their existing beliefs).

3. Interrogate your approach

Once you’ve begun to shape your strategic approach, test its durability with a rigorous interrogation. This can include:

Questioning your insights

Can you definitely draw the conclusions your strategy is based on? If not, why is that? Is the research out of date? Is the source questionable? Maybe you need to gather your own data (see above) to know 100% that the data is reliable.

Consider an opposing approach

Is there a counterposition to the one you’re suggesting? Think about how it differs and the potential upside of a different approach to stress test your own. This will help ensure you’re not overlooking any avenues or crucial details that could strengthen your strategy.

Effective ways to enhance your strategic thinking

4. Delegate

Thinking strategically takes time. A lot of team members tasked with strategic thinking struggle to give themselves enough space to consider the big picture when still immersed in day-to-day tasks. Delegating as much of your daily workload as possible is a necessity when trying to think strategically. All of the additional headspace you’ll gain will be hugely beneficial when it comes to understanding complex problems and finding the best possible solutions.

5. Embrace strategic thinking CPD training

One of the most effective ways to improve your strategic thinking skills is to take a dedicated and certified CPD course that has been recognised for its high quality of learning. We have a wide range of courses available within our CPD Courses Catalogue aimed to help you develop this important soft skill.

Interested in improving your goal-setting abilities? Take a look at our previous related articles: 

CPD - a guide to goal setting

CPD tips - How to set smarter personal and professional goals

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We hope this article was helpful. Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. If you are looking to provide training courses, workshops, eLearning or virtual events that may be suitable for Continuing Professional Development, please contact our team to discuss in more detail.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a free online CPD record tool to help manage, track and log your ongoing learning, as well as store your professional training records and attendance certificates in one simple place, go to the myCPD Portal page.

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