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Thinking strategically is important for any professional field. By using strategic thinking skills, you can think critically and creatively to solve complex problems and plan for what lies ahead.

Leaders who think strategically see around corners and spot possibilities and choices where others see problems and constraints. It is about seeing the unknown and being aware of all the possibilities. Fortunately, you can cultivate a strategic mindset by following some simple steps and practicing often.

You need to be able to look to the future. It is helpful to look back and learn from the past, but do not spend all your time there. To cultivate a strategic mindset, you must take the long view. This viewpoint will open options and possibilities because it is unimpeded by your current limitations. Think about how you make these decisions with your team. Do you look towards the future and see the potential in the future, or do you begin with a more conservative set of options? Strive to take a long-term, future view to plan effectively.

Start from the context. Be aware that outside-in thinkers typically look for opportunities and threats (think SWOT analysis) in their contextual environment. Before considering what they can control, they look at social, political, and technological forces. Remember to control what you can manage and do not let the other factors impact your decision-making.

You should try to develop a strategic mindset. You should not limit yourself to the long-established and familiar ideas and routines in your life. Conventional wisdom promotes predictability and certainty, and often extreme rigidity. This is an example of doing what you have always done, and you will get what you always have. You can break loose by choosing to embrace innovation and disruption.

You should learn to synthesize information from various sources. It is likely that you get many emails and data from multiple people and sources every day. It is understood you get more insight and data than you could feasibly interpret or act on in a week. Therefore, it is crucial to systematically scan, synthesize, and process information from a broad array of inputs. This should help you make sense of all that is happening within your team, company, and the larger community.

You need to be intentionally optimistic. Which do you do: focus more on risks, concerns, and the threat of loss, or do you look for opportunities, upsides, and potential wins? To think strategically, you must be purposeful in looking on the bright side. According to Randall, positivity and an optimistic outlook create a foundation for a solution orientation, offering a broad spectrum of choices.

Developing a strategic mindset is an ongoing process. Learning how to think strategically is perhaps one of the most essential soft skills you can master because it enables you to think differently and creatively, propose new ideas, and see opportunities that others miss. And this will help you thrive.

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