“Look at the bigger picture.” A statement that carries so much weight and the potential to turn things around if only everyone would make a deliberate effort to do precisely that. Before you can even begin to work on developing big picture thinking, you must first establish what exactly the “big picture” means to you. Your responsibilities and how much power or influence you wield in your organization will, to no small extent, determine how much you can influence the big picture.
Succinctly put, big picture thinking is not just for the leaders and executives in an organization. You too, wherever you may stand in the hierarchy of your organization, can develop the strategic thinking skills that will enable you to always have the big picture before you. That said, expectations are even higher on you if you are a part of the top leadership since you are, after all, in a position to make decisions and develop plans for the entire organization.
Developing and Cultivating Strategic Thinking
There are crucial elements that will help in developing strategic thinking and clarity. If you want to be a strategic or big-picture thinker, here are some of these crucial elements to always keep in mind
Why does your company exist, and what are its fundamental goals? What defines your corporate values and culture? Who are your clients, and what do you bring to the table that sets you apart from the competition? What is your vision as a company, and what are your strategic priorities? Answer these pertinent questions to understand your organization better.
Once you do, ask the all-important question about how you, in the execution of your role, fits into it all. By understanding how you and your team can contribute to the company’s bigger picture, you will be able to develop an action plan and prioritize your actions to promote your company’s vision.
Strive to always be in the know about what’s happening in your organization. Are you developing and preparing to launch new products? Are the strategies you are currently using helping you to meet targets?
Stay abreast of the trends in your industry. Find out what other players are doing and how it has influenced their business. Stay up to date with what might you a competitive edge over other companies in your industry. By being in the know about your current standing, you can come up with specific strategies that will take you to where you want to be.
Every decision, big or small, has an implication or consequence. Big picture thinking calls for you to think beyond just what these decisions mean in the short-term but their implications months, and even years down the line. It can help if you always keep in mind the fact that a single decision can create a ripple effect and far-reaching consequences.
You need to ensure that you have the mental space to accommodate all your big picture thoughts. This means letting go of the smaller details that do not directly add to your big picture perspective. If you continue to grasp harder at these less-than-important details, then you will end up spending too much of your time and brainpower analyzing these details, at the expense of the crucial details. You will need to consciously eliminate such things from your daily focus.
Additionally, it would help if you cleared your mind of any assumptions and perceptions you may hold regarding a matter. These assumptions can significantly limit your thinking. By making a conscious effort to remove these assumptions and start with a clean slate, you free up your mind to see the bigger picture.
Be open-minded and listen to the views of others. Others, in this context, includes but is not limited to other members of your team, the end customer and shareholders.
Is there a need that you are not meeting for the end customer? Are there concerns or reservations that your customers and shareholders have? See the bigger picture by thinking along the lines of meeting these needs and addressing any raised concerns.
Acknowledge that there is no one way to do something, and you will open yourself to a world of so many possibilities. Find out how others in your industry are going about a particular issue, and think about how you can apply other learnings to your scenario.
Strategic thinking looks for what works. If their methods and processes work, then, by all means, jump on board. You can also think of ways to improve the whole thing and make it even more efficient.
There is a lesson in every experience. What are the inherent cons that made a particular strategy a success? You can also analyze every failure and find out what, if anything, you can do to avoid the same in the future. Most scenarios do tend to repeat themselves. Spend time analyzing each of these, and you will be better prepared to handle the same when they arise again.
Sometimes, it’s truly not that complicated, and you don’t need to overthink. Before you spend hours thinking and trying to come up with a complex solution, sit back and first consider the simplest and most straightforward answer. The solution is, most times, more obvious than you’d care to acknowledge. Such are usually quite easy to implement and may not require so much in terms of resource allocation. If such savings fit well into the bigger picture, then the better for your organization.
There will always be something that needs doing urgently, and you can easily get lost in going through the motions of taking care of the next item on your to-do list. It can all be so overwhelming that it leaves you with no time to sit down and visualize the bigger picture in all its grandeur.
Identify some blocks of time and set them apart for thinking. Ideally you’ll pick times when your mind is at its most clear and creative, but just building in some time is helpful regardless. It may surprise you what just an hour of intense and concentrated thinking, free of distractions, can help you come up with for you or your organization.
There is a wide range of strategy games that can be the perfect practice ground for you. Think chess and how, with every move, your mind is always on the end-game or the bigger picture. It is an excellent mental practice, and it will be easier for you to practise the same strategic thinking to real-life scenarios where the stakes are real.
To develop strategic thinking that will bring the bigger picture into focus, you need to draw lessons from past happenings, be fully aware of what is happening all around you and keep your mind on what you envision for the future. You also need to clear your mind, make time to think, and do regular exercise, even if it’s in the virtual world.