The Role of Strategic Thinking in Critical Thinking

The Role of Strategic Thinking in Critical Thinking

To think strategically requires that you consider the impact of decisions and outcomes. It is a longer-term view that considers outside influences.

Strategic thinking would not be very different from analytical thinking if it were not for one thing … external scenarios. By external scenarios I mean future events and occurrences that could or will have a major impact on strategic decisions.

Strategic thinking's role in Critical Thinking is a higher order, some would call it cerebral, activity of analyzing the facts about a current situation and then mentally playing out predicted next step results that will or could occur.

In this mode of thinking you look at the consequences of decisions and the outcomes from other decisions that might affect a potential course of action.

The mode relies heavily of predictive probability and visioning. It needs concrete analytical skills as well as abstract reasoning and scenario planning.

In business situations, strategic thinking applies to finding strategic alliances, advantages, controls, fit, plans and targets. In investigative endeavors, strategic thinking looks for ways to uncover more information. As a Critical Thinker it is also very helpful to look at the strategic thinking of others to fully understand how and why a chain of events occurred.

In addition to the analytical tools and methods described in my article, The Role of Analytical Thinking in Critical Thinking, the following tools are also helpful in various applications of strategic thinking.

Scenario Planning

Scenarios are well-researched, distinct and plausible stories about the future. They do not attempt to predict the future, but rather show how different active forces will shape it. For business planning purpose, scenarios are usually based on Social Dynamics, Economic Dynamics, Technological Dynamics and Political Dynamics. The strategically minded critical thinker does not choose one scenario over another, they choose all likely ones and develop actions that optimize results regardless of which scenario occurs.


SWOT Analysis

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats is a strategic thinking tool that works together with scenario planning. Common questions that the tool generates are…

If the scenario occurs:

  • What opportunities does it supply us?

  • What strengths do we have to capitalize on these opportunities?

  • What weaknesses do we have that would prevent our capitalizing on the opportunities?

  • What threats do our weaknesses or the scenario overall present to us?


Force Field Analysis

Usually shown as a 2-column chart with the 1st column holding positive factors (influencing forces) that are driving and motivating the defined subject in one direction and negative influencing factors listed in the 2nd column. The tool is most effective when used in creating strategies for influencing social behaviors.


Johari Window

A comparative four quadrant model used to brainstorm knowns and unknowns concerning a given subject. When listing "knowns" it is important to consider assumptions that you might be making. The outcomes from creating a Johari Window are the planned strategies for changing the dynamics of the knowns and unknowns and meeting a stated goal.

As a Critical Thinker, and whether you are the creator or reviewer of a strategy, it is paramount that you understand the goals and execution timeline of it.

Implementing a successful strategy is all about being at the right place at the right time and performing a strategically planned set of actions.

In other words…

Thinking analytically where something should go is one thing; developing a strategy to get it there is quite another.

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