6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers (Repost)

THE STRATEGIC DECISION | Paul J. H. Schoemaker

You’re the boss, but you still spend too much time on the day-to-day. Here’s how to become the strategic leader your company needs.

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In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with investors, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it’s time for you to “be strategic.”

Whatever that means.

If you find yourself resisting “being strategic,” because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you’re not alone. Every leader’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff.

This is a tough job, make no mistake. “We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It’s hard to be a strategic leader if you don’t know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.

After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what’s required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well:

Anticipate 

Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:

  • Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
  • Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
  • Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically

“Conventional wisdom” opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:

  • Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
  • Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
  • Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions

Interpret 

Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution.  A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:

  • Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously

Decide

Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:

  • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
  • Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
  • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views

 Align

Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge.  To pull that off, you need to:

  • Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
  • Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
  • Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support

Learn

As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by.  You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning.  Here’s what you need to do:

  • Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
  • Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track
  • Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Do you have what it takes?

Obviously, this is a daunting list of tasks, and frankly, no one is born a black belt in all these different skills. But they can be taught and whatever gaps exist in your skill set can be filled in. I’ll cover each of the aspects of strategic leadership in more detail in future columns. But for now, test your own strategic aptitude (or your company’s) with the survey at www.decisionstrat.com. In the comments below, let me know what you learned from it.

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Simple Genius

I love stuff like this. You find a problem, then, rather than complaining about it or ignoring it like so many others (myself included) you come up with a crazy brilliant solution. Beautiful.

The Pringles Package Sucks. This Chip Can Blooms Into A Bowl

 

ONE DESIGNER’S FURY AT PRINGLES BLOSSOMS A BRILLIANT IDEA IN SNACKING.

 

Young designer Dohyuk Kwon encountered the same problem we all have before: He was enjoying a package of Pringles potato crisps until, suddenly, he found the chip level had sunk to a critical expletive-laden stage just below the reach of his fingers. “So I sketched a more convenient package of chips,” he tells Co.Design.

His concept is called Bloom Chips, and it won a Red Dot Award for its obvious brilliance: Bloom Chips is a wrinkled cylinder that unfurls to create its own bowl. “Its mechanism is more complex than it looks,” says Kwon. “Simply speaking, it’s like a blooming flower.” The idea is so instantly impressive that it’s impossible to imagine why no one at Procter & Gamble thought of it first.

Though, there is some precedent in the world of self-contained snacking: The design reminds me a bit of Jiffy Pop, which uses a similar, expandable packaging to make its own container. “I didn’t know Jiffy Pop until a few minutes ago,” responds Kwon. “It’s very, very interesting. I guess once there was a man who complained about existing popcorn package, so he made the package for Jiffy Pop.”

(Interestingly enough, Jiffy Pop really was the project of one man! Frederick C. Mennen, a chemist and inventor from LaPorte, Indiana, developed the product in 1958. But actually, another man invented Jiffy Pop first. An identical predecessor was called E-Z Pop, developed by a Michigan-native named Benjamin Coleman. Coleman sued for patent infringement in the 1960s, but the case was turned over in appeal.)

Bloom Chips will likely never convince Pringles to change their cans, but that’s okay. For one thing, we really don’t need to be enticed into eating a whole package of chips every time we pop open a new can. But more importantly, pouring those unreachable Pringles crumbs straight from the can into one’s mouth is one of the simplest, most wonderful pleasures in life. And really, it’s a delicious byproduct of design gone wrong.

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Evidences Of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection

 

from the April 03, 2012 eNews issue
http://www.khouse.org

“I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history …”
– E. M. Blaiklock – Professor of Classics, Auckland University

The Resurrection of Christ is the most powerful event in history.  It has affected the last 2000 years of history and politics, from peasants to kings to nations.  Christianity has spread across the entire world, into every country and into a vast number of ethnic groups and languages. Billions of people have experienced the life-giving, healing, forgiveness and freedom offered by God because Jesus Christ conquered death and rose again from the grave.

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:12-22 that without the resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is useless. “And if Christ be not raised,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

There are many skeptics who disregard the resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as a fable.  However, the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is extremely strong, even to the point of converting some who sought to disprove it:

The Empty Tomb: Though well-trained Roman soldiers guarded the tomb of Jesus Christ, it was empty 3 days after Jesus’ death as Jesus had repeatedly foretold (Matt 12:40, Mark 8:31).  The guards had fled (a death penalty offense). The massive stone had been rolled away, and the body was gone – and was never produced by the enemies of the Christians.  The linen grave clothes in which the Jews bury their dead were still in the tomb, undisturbed. From the Jewish historian Josephus to a compilation of 5th-century Jewish writings called the “Toledoth Jeshu”, even Jewish sources and traditions admit that the tomb was empty.  The body was never found.

Living Witnesses:  There were a multitude of witnesses who saw Jesus Christ alive after his death.  The disciples, the travelers on the road to Emmaus and a number of women all spoke to Jesus alive. Thomas doubted until he was able to put his fingers into Jesus’ wounds (John 20:26-27).  He later spread the Gospel all the way to India.  The apostle Paul tells of 500 people to whom Jesus appeared at one time, most of whom were still alive and available for questioning when Paul wrote his letter  (1 Cor 15:6).  When several people testify in a courtroom that they witnessed an event, and their accounts are found consistent with each other, their testimony is considered factual information.  Jesus Christ was seen alive many times by hundreds of different people over the course of forty days after his death (John 20-21, Acts 1:3).

The Disciples:  Christ’s followers, who had been fearful and who had run away when Jesus was arrested, were completely changed after the Resurrection and became courageous witnesses.  Peter, who had denied knowing Christ when recognized by a simple servant girl, became the powerfully bold leader of those who had seen Christ alive, speaking to the thousands gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot – Pentecost.   A person may die for a lie if they do not know it is a lie.  But people do not give their lives up and face severe persecution to spread a lie they themselves invented.   The fact that the disciples willingly suffered beatings and persecution and death is strong evidence that they had actually witnessed the resurrection they refused to stop telling people about.

Saul of Tarsus:  A devoutly religious Pharisee, who persecuted the Church and had Christ’s followers thrown in prison, Paul had his life absolutely changed by his encounter with Christ.  He became a devoted follower of Christ himself, spreading the Gospel throughout Turkey and Greece in the face of beatings and shipwrecks and imprisonment and, finally, execution.

“If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.” – F. F. Bruce, Manchester University

Skeptics’ Arguments Against the Resurrection:

The Hallucination Theory claims that the witnesses who met the resurrected Jesus were all “seeing things” – they were hallucinating.  However, this goes against common sense as well as psychological principles. Five hundred people do not all hallucinate the same thing.  Jesus appeared to many people at many different times.  Also, the body was never produced.

The Swoon Theory argues that Jesus did not die – that he simply fainted from loss of blood and exhaustion.  However, this also goes against common sense.  The Romans were professionals who severely whipped Jesus, hung him on a cross, and then stabbed him in the side with a spear to make sure he was dead. He was in the grave for three days, wrapped head to foot in a burial cloth, without food or water or medical treatment.  When he appeared to his disciples he was completely whole and healthy and his appearance inspired awe and worship that lasted throughout the rest of the disciples’ lives.

The Disciples Faked the Resurrection:  Discouraged, fearful fishermen and former tax collectors, whose teacher had been viciously murdered, were in little position to take on a detachment of trained Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.  They would have had to create a fantastic plan in order to fight off or bribe the professional soldiers, raid the tomb, unbind the grave clothes from Christ’s body, take the body away, and hide it where nobody would ever find it. The Roman soldiers faced death if they failed in their guard duty, and the disciples had little money for bribing anybody.  Many people would have had to be involved in the conspiracy, and all those involved would not only have known the truth, but would know that they were risking meeting the same fate as their recently crucified leader. And what purpose could it possibly serve, if Jesus were dead?  They would have had nothing to gain.  Their leader was gone and they would have only faced persecution and death for their invented resurrection story.

And again, the disciples’ attitudes completely changed after the Resurrection and especially after Pentecost. They became bold and courageous in spreading their message, fearless of beatings or imprisonment. They never sought to fight Rome or to establish any position or kingdom or authority for themselves.  They had nothing to gain, physically speaking.  They simply went about the known world, telling their story in spite of persecution and suffering, poverty and ridicule. Their message quickly spread across the Middle East and Europe and even into Asia without any military conquest or political support involved – and in spite of strong opposition. Only belief and hope based in the reality of their experiences would have produced such dedication in the lives of Christ’s followers.

His Miracles Today:
Perhaps the greatest evidence today of Christ’s resurrection is the work that he is still doing in the lives of every day people.  In the name of Jesus, people are still being healed emotionally and physically and spiritually by the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  Sinners are being freed from the burden and pain and shame of sin – sometimes immediately, sometimes after long years of steady work by the Holy Spirit in their lives.  Hearts are being mended and lives are being turned around.   The best evidence today is the faithful follower of Christ who can say, “He saved me, and I am not the person I used to be” just as the apostles testified 2000 years ago.

[For more in-depth coverage of the above arguments, as well as many further evidences and related information, please see the links below.]

Related Links:

•   Evidence for the Resurrection – Leadership U
•   Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Leadership U
•   The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? – F.F. Bruce
•   Evidence Supporting the Bible – CARM – Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
•   His Unfamiliar Face – Koinonia House
•   The Jesus Tomb – Koinonia House
•   Reflections of His Image: Pride vs. Humility – Koinonia House

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