Strategic and tactical thinking

What are you thinking? More importantly, how are you thinking? There's a big difference between strategic and tactical thinking that I'll explore in this next series of blog posts. I find that difference to give us a great explanation for why so much teaching, preaching, telling and selling usually backfires. When we use our tactical thinking, there's a slim chance our efforts will prove to be effective. When we deploy our strategic thinking, we've greatly improved our chances for a success.

At a first glance, strategy is concerned with strengths and weaknesses applied to opportunities and threats. When we ponder those with our tactical thinking, we assume:

  • strengths are obvious and best used to intimidate others
  • weaknesses are unfortunate and best kept hidden
  • opportunities are advantageous and best exploited
  • threats are provocative and best confronted

When we consider strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats with our strategic thinking, we can see how tactical thinking is predictable and flawed. We can rely on others' tactical thinking to take things extremely literally: "a strength is a strength without question". We can see how tactical thinking provides captivating self-imposed limitations which rule out superior possibilities. We can suspect the practitioners of tactical thinking are being pretentious, hypocritical and vulnerable to our own strategic maneuvers.

Through a strategic lens:

  • a show of strength may be a sign of hidden weakness or underlying insecurities
  • a show of weakness may be an indication of hidden strength or quiet confidence
  • an obvious opportunity may be a baited trapped or offer that's too good to be true
  • a provocative threat may be a potential ally or a cry for help 

Our strategic thinking can take something literally or imaginatively. It can react to face value evidence or read between the lines. It can polarize a distinction and see how the either/or can become a  both/and combination. This flexibility makes for enhanced effectiveness when we're teaching, preaching, telling or selling.

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