Personal development

Strategic Thinking – And its myths

unicorn origami

‘Think strategically’. A term that lives on the lips of many executives. But what exactly does it mean?

There must be as many explanations as there are people trying to explain them. Amidst the confusion, ‘strategic thinking’ may even become a byword for inaction.

This article by Inc, quoting from Harvard Business Review, doesn’t try to – but does a good job debunking some myths about strategic thinking and may make the term meaningful again.

The myths are:

1. Being productive is strategic.

2. Your job is to label what’s important.

3. Strategic thinking is about thinking.

The main take-home for me? ‘strategic thinking is about managing what to do and what not to do.’

(Photo: Flickr/Yosuke Muroya)


Five characteristics of successful innovators – via Harvard Business Review


We all generate ideas. Some of them are fantastic. But not all of us turn them into innovations. So what sets apart people who do become strong business innovators?

Harvard Business Review examined research into key common characteristics of innovative people. Aside from creativity, the five are:

1. Creativity – helps identifying problems in the first place.

2. An opportunistic mindset, helping them identify market gaps.

3. Formal education/training, helping noticing (or interpreting events as) opportunities – quite contrary to the ‘college drop-out startup‘ popularised by high-profile figures like Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg et al. And thanks to the proliferation of free online business courses from reputable universities, this education doesn’t have to be time-consuming or requiring strong commitment.

4. Productivity and high persistence, helping exploitation of those opportunities (in a resilient manner).

5. Prudence – being organised, cautious, and risk-averse – but not to say success can breed entirely from one’s comfort-zone, as Richard Branson discussed!

6. Social capital, helps mobilise resources and build strong networks.

In short, there is no point in just hoping for a breakthrough idea – what matters is the ability to generate many ideas, discover the right opportunities to develop them, and act with drive and dedication to achieve a meaningful goal.

The article makes an important point, that these factors point to personal attributes, rather than answering ‘what makes an idea innovative/valuable’. There is too much disagreement on that front. Also it is important to recognise that creativity alone doesn’t engender success; implementation of that creativity is vital.

Full article: The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators (HBR).

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Worthwhile online business courses from major schools, for free

"The five P's of marketing: place, price, product, promotion, PATTING..." (Source)

“The five P’s of marketing: place, price, product, promotion, PATTING…” (Source)

Online business education is gradually gaining in importance – especially the so-called MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses). Major US business schools like Wharton and Harvard are offering programs online.

Harvard’s Clay Christensen told Wired that traditional higher education is “vulnerable to disruption” in the form of online learning.

Now, Business Insider has collected a series of online courses from well-credentialed universities – taught by some eminent names no less – free. They go for anything between 3 and 23 weeks, if not entirely self-paced.

Headlining the article is a course on financial markets by Yale’s Robert Shiller, who predicted the dotcom bust and just last week became the latest Nobel Laureate.

Personally, having dabbled in behavioural economics research, I’ll be keeping an eye on Dan Ariely’s (Duke) course on people’s irrational behaviour.


Re-energise at work: don’t eat lunch at your desk!

Tired at work? Need more energy to push that new business along? Eat your lunch away from your desk, says Professor Chris Cunningham at the University of Tennessee.

Better still, take a colleague out to lunch:

He is a fan of going out with co-workers for lunch frequently—and not talking about work. “That is a resource-replenishing activity,” he says.

Of course, taking that lunch hour (or half hour) off means you can’t keep working on that pressing problem – but resting your brain may help better decision-making, says Carnegie Mellon University.

Related articles

(image source: The Guardian)


Things to keep secret from co-workers?

Toxic workplaces – why do they happen? What can generate them?

Bernard Marr suggested, via Linkedin, certain things that shouldn’t be shared  in office. No 1 of them? “Salary or money details”.

Most of them I heartily agree. Marr admonishes against sharing your personal Facebook account – which is good advice for the over-sharers. But for those who are savvy with using Facebook for business, it may yet prove profitable.

(Image Source)