Strategic thinking is a powerful skill that can take your career to new heights. It provides a bird’s eye view to map out action plans that help you soar past goals.
Curious how the top performers use strategic thinking as a superpower?
Let’s take a look at these strategic thinker examples, plus steps on how to develop strategic planning skills.
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What is a Strategic Thinker?
Having strategic thinking on lock means seeing the big picture, learning from the past, solving real problems, weighing choices wisely, adapting to change, thinking creatively, and basing plans on facts – all keys to achieving goals and getting stuff done. A few of the main skills involved are:
- Visioning – Being able to imagine what the future might look like and come up with a plan to make your vision a reality.
- Big picture thinking – Stepping back to see how all the different pieces fit together instead of focusing on just one part. This helps you notice how choices could affect other areas.
- Pattern spotting – Recognising familiar patterns from past experiences so you can learn from history. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
- Problem-solving – Analysing what’s really causing an issue, not just symptoms on the surface. Going to the root helps you solve it for good.
- Decision-making – Weighing the pros and cons to pick the best options when you’ve got tough choices to make.
- Flexibility – Adjusting your plans when life throws you curveballs since things don’t always go as planned.
- Creativity – Coming up with new ideas instead of always doing the same old thing. Thinking outside the box opens up opportunities.
- Research skills – Gathering facts to ensure your strategies are based on reality, not just guesses and hunches.
Strategic Thinker Examples
We encounter different scenarios that require strategic thinking on a day-to-day basis, sometimes we don’t even realise it! These strategic thinker examples will help you know how to apply and when to use this ability:
#1. Strategic Thinker Examples – In Business
John is the CEO of a major consumer goods company.
When the global pandemic hit, John quickly assessed the situation. He saw consumer demand and behaviour shifting significantly as people stayed home. Rather than panic, John took a strategic approach.
He had his analysts pore over sales data, survey customers, and research trends. This showed a surge in baking, cleaning, self-care and home improvement needs. As an ideator, John then brainstormed new product ideas to meet these demands.
John tapped his inner planner to devise strategies. He fast-tracked development and rerouted supply chains to prioritise opportune items. John also negotiated with distributors and retailers to get these products on shelves ASAP.
As a persuader, John rallied his team. He communicated the strategic vision, addressed concerns, and enlisted collaboration across departments. Morale and commitment remained high during the uncertain time.
Through John’s strategic leadership, the company pivoted quickly and captured new revenue streams. Markets stabilised and the company was well positioned for future resilience because of John’s foresight, fact-based adaptable planning, creativity in problem-solving and ability to motivate others.
In this example, John has demonstrated his ability for:
Analysis: John directed market research into customer pain points and emerging needs. He analysed sales patterns and surveyed frontline workers to gain real-time intelligence about shifts.
Visioning: With insights in hand, John envisioned how to solve new problems and seize opportunities. He pictured new product lines that increased relevance and delivered solutions at home.
Systems thinking: He understood how changes in one area (customer demands) would affect other linked systems (supply chains, operations, budgets). This informed a holistic strategy.
Adaptability: As conditions evolved rapidly, John was nimble and willing to adjust plans when data indicated a better approach. He avoided a sunk costs mindset.
#2. Strategic Thinker Examples – At School
Juan is a senior undergraduate studying computer engineering. With graduation approaching, he started strategising his job search and career goals.
First, Juan researched employment trends and salary projections in different tech subfields like AI, cybersecurity, UX design etc. This industry analysis helped him envision opportunities.
As an ideator, Juan brainstormed companies and roles that aligned with his interests in fast-growing areas. He considered startups for more responsibility versus stability at large firms.
In his planner role, Juan mapped out short and long-term objectives. He joined relevant student clubs and lined up informational interviews/internships to build his resume for top graduate programs or jobs.
Juan leveraged his school’s career centre and alumni network to learn from experienced professionals. This benchmarking improved his strategic networking approaches.
The personable Juan also tapped persuader skills. References and recruiters helped pitch his skills/passion for strategic roles during interviews and applications.
In this example, Juan has demonstrated his ability for:
Adaptability: Juan researched backup options in case target opportunities fell through, showing flexibility.
Continuous learning: He augmented technical skills with business/leadership courses to expand career pathways.
Creativity: Juan considered networking avenues beyond career fairs like hackathons or personal projects on GitHub to showcase his potential.
Risk assessment: Juan realistically evaluated the pros/cons of various paths like startup risks versus established company stability.
Strategic Thinker Examples – In Different Industries
#3. A technology CEO envisioned the potential of mobile devices 10 years before competitors. She led strategic investments in developing custom mobile operating systems and apps, positioning the company as an early industry leader.
#4. A retail executive studied demographic shifts and saw rising demand for experiential shopping. She redesigned store layouts to drive engagement and launched in-store classes/events as a new revenue stream, attracting a younger customer base.
#5. A healthcare provider analysed population health trends and the growing needs of an ageing community. She launched new wellness programs, expanded in-home services, and partnered with other organisations to create an integrated care network that improved outcomes and reduced costs.
#6. A media company head noticed viewers shifting to streaming. He brokered strategic partnerships with digital platforms and invested in original content to build a direct subscription business. Simultaneously, he diversified the company into related areas like film/TV production.
#7. A transportation CEO realised rising emissions standards presented an opportunity. He heavily funded green technology R&D and pivoted the manufacturing strategy to focus on electric vehicles years ahead of regulations, gaining valuable market share.
#8. A financial services executive foresaw the potential of open banking to enable new Fintechs. She led strategic collaborations and API development to position the bank as a partner of choice for startups while also incubating their own complimentary digital offerings.
#9. A factory owner identified automation as a long-term need to maintain productivity. Through strategic planning, he secured funds to incrementally upgrade equipment/processes over 5 years versus a sudden overhaul. The transition was seamless with no production disruptions.
In essence, a strategic thinker adopts a wide-angle, future-focused lens to develop plans to achieve objectives and navigate uncertainties. When you have become an avid strategic thinker, solving complicated problems whether at school or in the workplace is just a piece of cake!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 4 types of strategic thinkers?
The four main types of strategic thinkers are analysts, ideators, planners and persuaders.
Who is considered a strategic thinker?
People who are considered strategic thinkers are leaders, entrepreneurs, engineers/scientists, consultants, long-term planners, systems thinkers, experienced individuals, creative problem solvers, and lifelong learners.
What is an example of strategic thinking in everyday life?
You can apply strategic thinking in a common life situation such as relationship building. You start by thinking about important people in your personal/professional networks, goals for relationships, and strategies to nurture them over time through communication and support.