How to Strengthen Strategic Thinking & Decision Making

Today’s work environment is known as the knowledge economy. The products we need to produce are creative, innovative, breakthrough ideas to elevate our company’s customer experience or eliminate barriers or problems customers face through the use of our organization’s products or services. Workers today need sound thinking processes to achieve their individual, team, and overall company goals. In other words, we need to flex our brains daily.

This work environment has created a desire by employers for highly skilled strategic thinking and decision-making in their employees. This desire extends to all jobs in every industry. Strategic thinkers focus on developing ways to most effectively and efficiently achieve goals, develop innovations others have not yet thought of, and then enable their organization to optimize their resources of time, money, and their employees’ abilities.

Strategic thinkers are typically described as self-motivated because they demonstrate they can make decisions that benefit their specific role or responsibilities and elevate their entire organization. And they achieve these benefits thanks to an understanding and business acumen that extends beyond their particular job, role, or function.

As an employee, excellent strategic thinking and sound decision-making can lead to new work opportunities, more challenging responsibilities, or a promotion. It also leads to lower stress and anxiety because it eliminates the need to re-work some project or task, eliminates the disappointment of making a mistake or not performing at your best, and speeds up completing our responsibilities. Strategic thinkers work more efficiently.

That all sounds great, right? So, then let’s get about strengthening this powerful ability. The skills that fuel strategic thinking and decision-making are Active Listening (yes, it is a thinking skill), intellectual humility, critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication.

Active Listening. Active listening is grounded in a desire to understand others, especially if their opinions differ from our own. Listening to understand is essential for critical thinking. And active listeners pick up on opportunities, issues, or problems others overlook. This unique knowledge will help to strengthen your work output quality.

Intellectual Humility. Humility is a behavior that illustrates an individual does not think they are more or less important than others. Intellectual humility goes further and enables us to separate our ego, or self-worth, from our ideas or opinions. Intellectually humble individuals understand they are smart but not always right. This characteristic or process is essential at work because it enables us to actively listen to feedback and suggestions on our ideas or opinions without becoming defensive or dismissing others’ opinions. This open-mindedness leads to greater creativity, stronger decision-making, and defining innovative solutions to problems. Input from others helps us evolve our thoughts and ideas to produce superior quality work. Conversely, the processes, programs, or new products we build will have limited success, reach, and acceptance if we disregard differing opinions. With an understanding of different opinions or points of view, we can create approaches that meet the needs of a larger audience, producing more substantial outcomes and success.

Critical Thinking. Most of our everyday thinking is automatic, where we exert little to no effort. Critical thinking moves beyond this “lazy brain approach” to thinking to a focused process where we put in the effort to consider data, ideas, and opinions in different ways. It is a slow, logical, effortful, conscious process where reason dominates. It incorporates cause and effect analysis to understand the impacts of decisions or processes on others. When we put in the effort to think about a topic deeply, evaluating different opinions on it, versus reacting quickly, we deepen our knowledge on that topic, which leads to stronger problem-solving and sounder decision-making.

Problem solving. The key to successful problem-solving is not accepting the first cause discovered, which is rarely the true culprit of a problem. And as you just heard, effective problem-solving requires critical thinking, where we consider a problem from different perspectives versus reacting and attempting to fix the problem after identifying the first potential source. Brize includes a research and analysis process, which helps our users discover the true source of a problem and faster fixes.