Advertising, like other industries, is plagued with business speak. One word, that is often overused, is “strategy.” We see it in titles such as “Global Strategic Marketing Director.” We use it to describe a process or an output of a process, for instance, “2013 Strategic Plan.” But what does it really mean to be strategic?
I’ve had this conversation with several colleagues and mentors throughout my career. Can strategic thinking be taught or are certain people more strategic in their thinking by nature? First, let’s look at what it means to be strategic. The dictionary defines strategy(ic) as: a plan, method or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result: a strategy for getting ahead in the world. Stratagems being defined as: a plan, scheme or trick for surprising or deceiving an enemy or to gain an advantage over an adversary or competitor. This makes perfect sense for our world since we’re always coming up with “strategies” to gain market share or build market share within a competitive set.
What does it mean to be a strategic thinker? I’ve observed a few qualities and behaviors in people that are considered, and have demonstrated, great strategic thinking. Here are a few of those observations:
- They’re not afraid of a blank page. These are people who can formulate an opinion, a direction, a unique thought and not just react to one already created. They’re not lazy thinkers, but people who are willing to stand for a position and the effort it takes to get there.
- They can see patterns form a variety of different data sources. Strategy requires lots of input. Gathering input is easy; compiling that data into meaningful patterns that form a predictable conclusion is another.
- They call upon equal levels of past experience and gut. Part of their input for decisions is their past experience (and patterns within their experience) and also the confidence of trusting their own abilities to create the right direction.
- They demonstrate empathy. They know how to put themselves in the mind of a consumer, an influencer, a channel partner, etc. and understand the emotional reasons for decision-making.
You don’t have to be a general or a CEO to demonstrate strategic thinking. Most of us are presented with opportunities daily. The question to ask is, “Are you up to the challenge?”