With so much intense change happening in the industry, the one key skill executives must possess is strategic thinking—a continuous habit of purposely reflecting on, acting on and creating the most value for the organization. And you don’t have to look very far to find this quality paying off in revenue.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings from is a clear example of strategic thinking in action. A recent Nielsen survey confirmed that streaming-video consumers are increasingly turning to Netflix to watch their TV shows. Indeed, 19% of Netflix subscribers—up from 11% in 2011—prefer to use this service for TV or TV-like programming.
And according to last week’s Facebook post by Hastings, Netflix served up more than one billion hours of video in June 2012.
Essentially, strategic thinking is getting your head out of the weeds. Move from a microscopic view of the world to the long-range observations of a telescope. Recognize the totality of your surroundings—every department, the business climate, what your competitors are doing, what your alliance partners are doing and where the economy is going globally—thereby constructing an environment with the most value for your organization.
Whenever you work within any group, you have a limited view. Numerous demands are placed upon you. Deliverables and expectations are always at your feet. And you often have access only to your division and your department.
Strategic thinking is never a pure process. It is often somewhat chaotic and involves people and staff from all parts of the organization. You integrate and incorporate with others to build the most value. Strategic thinking is:
Here are the top 12½ characteristics and actions of strategic thinkers.
1. Be insatiably curious and inquisitive
2. Challenge the status quo
3. Have a long-term vision
4. Have the flexibility to consider a variety of futures
5. Possess the ability to make decisions quickly
6. Ask questions
7. Filter complicated information into simple interpretations
8. Utilize insights wisely
9. Involve other people
10. Look for what is next
11. Align colleagues
12. Get results
12 ½. BE AGILE!
Strategic thinking involves an assessment of where we are now; where we want to go, and how will we get there.
When you adopt a strategic-thinking mindset, you are looking for the following:
1. What is going on?
2. Who is it impacting?
3. What does it mean?
4. What do we do now?
Here is the formula for strategic thinking:
1. EXPLORE – Gather information and learn. Facts and insights can come from trade publications, pop culture magazine, the news, etc. Be mindful of consumer habits and what is going on in the world. Remember, you too are a consumer, and what you have to say is also valid and valuable. And be mindful of speaking to people from all different levels in the company—you want diverse input.
2. SYNTHESIZE – Synthesizing is the phase in which you collect and refine all of the information that you have created. In an informal process you may be extracting data every day to update the way you lead and manage. In a formal process, you will be asked to be with a group of people synergizing many points of view from a multitude of sources. Check in with the facts and figures that you have gathered—what is the data telling you?
3. ACT – When you take decisive action, always consider:
- Who needs to be involved in devising next steps?
- What is the best case and worse case scenario?
- What are your measures of success?
- How can you have a plan A, B, C, D and E?
- Do you have a recognition system that rewards visionaries and tacticians?
At the end of the day also remember that while strategic thinking is integral to your success, not everyone is a visionary. Rewarding people who are loyal and strong within a company will help that company continue to be strategic, be tactical, and to forge ahead.
As Hastings points out: To ensure that you are thinking strategically, you must flex those muscles every day. Look up and around; see what your competition is doing; and determine how consumers are trending.
The goal is to continue experimenting and innovating—and to give your customer what they do not even know they want yet.
(Esther Weinberg is a leadership expert and a cable veteran with a 20-year track record in the industry. She currently creates breakthrough strategies for such companies as ESPN, Microsoft, Scripps Networks, NBCUniversal Cable, Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., Motorola, Headline News Network and MTV Networks, among others. She is the contributing author to the leadership book “Breaking Through” by acclaimed author Barbara Stanny. Esther is a Board Member of NAMIC-Southern California, a mentor for WICT Southern California and a member of the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association. Sign up for her FREE leadership newsletter with valuable information at www.mindlightgroup.com.)