How often have you heard it said of a colleague ‘Mary is good but she needs to think more strategically’? Perhaps we even berate ourselves for not thinking about and managing our own priorities more strategically – especially when up against another deadline that we had plenty of time to manage our workload towards.
The whole ‘Thinking Strategically’ thing is a challenge for most people with a demanding day job. The challenge can be compounded by confusing ‘Thinking strategically’ with ‘Working strategically’ a confusion I come across with clients almost every day.
I am convinced that most of us think operationally in different ways to the way we think strategically.
Thinking strategically works best for me when I deliberately manage my physiology, my fuel, my focus and my environment and this rarely happens when I’m on the go. I would argue that we need to create time to think strategically and prepare ourselves for that thinking.
But here’s the rub …… our insights, inspirations and interactions within a busy day are often the catalyst for some good strategic thinking. The problem is, of course, that, within those wonderful light-bulb / Ahah! moments we are rarely able to get into strategic thinking mode. In truth, we are probably rushing into the next meeting or working on the next priority or that immanent deadline.
The critical thing to do – in my experience – is to immediately turn these insights and inspirations into collateral that we can do something with before they fade into the mists of time.
My preferred current way of doing this is via my ‘Strategic Seconds’.
- My Strategic Seconds is a deliberate STOP! immediately – or very shortly after the insight or interaction event.
- It must deliberately only take seconds. 59 seconds is the upper limit.
- The content is the nuance, the essence, the sense, the links, the insights, the pictures, the excitement along with one or two key points or words, almost ‘stream of consciousness’ content. This is not detailed note taking.
- Input must be quick and easy. Do not edit as you go, just get it down and saved. For me this means a voice recording on my phone or writing via my Livescribe Smartpen. Sometimes I use my Livescribe Smartpen in Pencast mode to combine my recorded word with my writing.
- Once done, I save the file and create an action to use the collateral appropriately and then get on with the next thing.
My current approach has grown out of my use over the years of Action Learning Logs which are a more structured tactical learning review, founded on the work of Kolb and Honey & Mumford. I may well write a brief post on this process shortly.
For now, though, that’s it. Do let me have your thoughts about capturing insights and creating strategic thinking opportunities.