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Strategic thinking is used to address issues, make decisions and drive innovation. Successful strategic thinking can help maximize resources, add value to businesses and evoke positive change. According to Elaine Dundon, author of the book “Seeds of Innovation,” leaders can spur strategic thinking with a few key actions. Look at the organization as a whole, and consider how ideas and actions are interconnected. Focus on what is possible instead of how situations have been handled in the past. Strive to stretch imagination and skill sets to extend organizations to the level of extraordinary.
The technology powerhouse, Google Inc., is known for its innovation and successful strategic thinking. It has stayed in the forefront of business by hiring and keeping top talent. Many top companies boast high salaries and generous vacation policies. Google, however, uses a lifestyle strategy to sell potential employees on the idea that they can work and have fun. With slides leading downstairs to the cafeteria, free all-you-can-eat buffets, dog-friendly offices and quirky seating including boats, massage chairs, bean bags and ski gondolas, Google knows how to attract positive attention. However, their strategy does not stop there. They provide their engineers with time to work on side projects. The innovative and creative ideas resulting from this 20 percent of the engineers’ time has yielded half of Google’s new offerings annually.
The battle for a cure for cancer has raged strong for years. However, when the National Cancer Institute switched its focus from finding a cure to seeking a neutralizer for the enzyme that causes cancer, it successfully used strategic thinking.
Jane Elliott, an elementary school teacher in 1968, sought to teach her third-grade students about prejudice after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Her students lived in a rural town in Iowa that lacked ethnic diversity. Instead of attempting to teach the power of prejudice through a rote memory lesson, Elliott decided to use strategic thinking. She divided the class into two groups: blue eyes and brown eyes. On the first day, she told the class that the brown-eyed students were superior. An immediate delineation fell upon the group with old friendships severed and shocking comments from the children in both groups. The following day, Elliott told the students that she had made a mistake and that the blue-eyed children were superior. Suddenly, the blue-eyed children were scoring higher on tests than the day before and the brown-eyed children were earning lower scores. Fifteen years later, when the PBS series “Frontline” conducted a reunion for the students, they spoke of how profound the experience had been. In fact, studies conducted 10 and 20 years after the lesson reflected Elliott’s students to be “significantly less prejudiced” than their peers did.
Art Silverman was faced with the daunting task of informing the masses of the health issues related to movie popcorn consumption. At the time, a single serving of movie popcorn contained about twice the daily recommendation of saturated fat. Instead of focusing on the academia, he chose to illustrate the situation visually during a press conference in 1992. He laid out a greasy breakfast of bacon and eggs, a Big Mac and French fries and a steak dinner complete with sides to illustrate the amount of saturated fat in the medium bag of popcorn. His strategic thinking was successful. The story was quickly featured on four major television networks and referenced by leading talk show hosts. His efforts evoked change, causing the movie houses to change the oil they used for popping corn.
This week, select one of the above categories and detail for us an issue you’ve experienced or are aware of, and a strategy to solve it!