BY LIZZ WAMBUA
Innovative thinking is an ongoing process that involves use of internal and external data to find and develop unique opportunities and ensure creativity and innovation for superior performance. Today’s business environment is so dynamic and highly competitive since competition has gone global. Therefore, corporate strategies must go beyond the borders of nations and markets. Unique business insights and opportunities must be developed and applied to create the firm’s competitive advantage. A journal article “Strategic Thinking: 11 Critical Skills Needed” by J. Glenn Ebersole states that the greatest and most successful organisations in the world, over many years and decades, would think ahead and encourage great strategic thinking at least somewhere in their business plans. The following are some of the factors that highlight the value of innovation and strategic thinking.
Clear focus and direction
Innovative thinking endows you with a clear vision and the means to get there. It will enable you articulate the ideas clearly, set the direction, create a sense of shared purpose and guide behaviour so that you move forward and pursue your aspirations. This helps employees know what’s expected of them, motivates and enables them to improve on performance as feedback if provided to them. A strategic thinker will simplify complex issues and make it clear for his/her team to work and achieve the expectations. Strategic thinkers ensure that objectives are well defined, action steps for each objective developed and every individual in the team is made aware of their roles so that each takes responsibility and remains focused.
An article “Create a clear direction for your business” by Synergy and Strategy Ltd states that your business direction will provide the purpose for your business, determine how you operate and help you identify the strategies that your business needs to adopt. It will help guide you as to which business opportunities should be pursued and which will simply distract you from your core business.
Improved decision making
Innovative thinking enables you to recognise any changes in the business environment that may have a direct impact to your business hence you’ll be able to weigh the pros and cons to ensure the best decision is made. It also guides you to narrowing your options by picking/considering the best alternatives that have significant effect to your business. Market information helps you get well-informed opinions that will improve your decision-making. Strategic thinkers will listen and understand their stakeholders and seek critical strategic information to guide their decision-making.
Kelly Kehoe, a freelance writer specializing in personal finance writes, “We make decisions every day of our lives, but with the wide array of options presented to us, we’re often plagued with indecisiveness and regret over opportunity costs incurred from “wrong” decisions.”
Every business is under constant pressure to grow to avoid losing its market share to its competitors, growth therefore is not an option. A business must identify and make adequate use of the opportunities at their disposal and the organisational infrastructure must be able to support the desired growth. Innovative thinking enables you to map your way to constant growth strategies through scenario planning. The business dictionary defines scenario planning as the process of visualizing what future conditions and events are probable, what their consequences and effects would be like and how to respond to or benefit from them.
This growth that all firms need cannot be achieved minus strategic thinking as Bill Liabotis writes in his journal article “Three Strategies for Achieving and Sustaining Growth”, the probability of achieving profitable growth is heightened whenever an organisation has a clear growth strategy and strong execution infrastructure. One without the other impairs the probability of success.
The business environment is rapidly changing hence every business is subject to change. More often, there are new entrants into the market, change in economy (both local and international), technological advancement, opening of new markets, change in customer demographics and preferences etc. strategic thinking is the mind-set that enables you develop plans to stay prepared for these changes and take appropriate actions as the changes unfold. It also enables you to use the appropriate tool(s) to analyse the business environment and your stakeholders, this information is very crucial for you to adapt to the constantly changing environment hence creating sustainable competitive advantage.
We are living in tough and uncertain times and organisations need to adjust by using a more robust approach to prioritisation while considering motivating their team members to improve performance. Strategic thinkers will identify business environmental changes and be able to lead their teams in focusing on key priorities.
Innovative thinking will enable you determine how to use the limited resources most efficiently and effectively to meet your goals and perform excellently. These resources are financial, human and physical resources which the firm/business needs to put in place in order to pursue its chosen strategy. A strategic thinker will work to avoid the risk of engaging in costly mistakes through market analysis information. Innovative thinking will guide you in integrating the limited human resources and reduced budgets to get the best out of it. It guides you to improve management and leadership effectiveness for the few managers and engaging them, communicating and influencing them to motivate and keep key talent.
Innovative thinking gives you the power to combat competition, it gives you the capability to assess the strategic impact of the action steps taken by your competitors hence guiding you to take the moves that will help maintain competitive advantage. Thinking creatively in the competitive environment will also capacitate you to understand the drivers that create and sustain competitive advantage. It will guide you to going beyond the normal Google search and devising other means to understand your competitors well e.g. speaking to new customers, suppliers, attending conferences and exhibitions, tap information from social networks, conduct surveys or even call them.
A journal article “Small Businesses’ Secret Weapon: Customer Relationships” by Mary Liz Curtin states that no matter who your competitor is, the first move is to define your business clearly, identify what you actually sell and profile your customers so you can serve them better.