Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. Clipping is a handy way to collect and organize the most important slides from a presentation. The best Brand Leaders know when to be a strategic thinker and when to be an action thinker.
When I am in a large group setting and I ask people “so, what does it mean to be strategic?”, not a lot of hands go in the air.
Focus: Alignment of your limited resources to a distinct strategic point you wish to penetrate, creating positive momentum on a pathway towards your vision. Leverage: Ability to turn the early win into creating a momentum, that leads to the tipping point where you achieve more in return than the effort put in. Gateway: Realization point where you see a shift in positional advantage or power that allows you to believe your vision is achievable. We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. After years of talking strategy with business partners I have come to the conclusion that most of us don’t know what strategic thinking really is.
The Clifton (Gallup) StrengthsFinder identifies strategy as a distinct strength that some of us have, and I know many executives who proudly declare themselves to be strategic thinkers.
Strategic thinking is about finding and developing a strategic foresight capacity for an organisation, by exploring all possible organisational futures, and challenging conventional thinking to foster decision making today. Our minds are amazing in that they create efficiencies that allow us to operate with the least amount of effort. We don’t realize that the habits in our thinking prevent us from innovative solutions to persistent problems. We say we want change, we believe we are entrepreneurial, but in reality we are tethered to self-limiting patterns of thought. When we begin to challenge the status quo by becoming more aware of our limited and limiting assumptions, we gain insights into where our thoughts are leading us. The capacity to see into the future is not the purview of fortune tellers, but the domain of those committed to actively seeking to give the time and attention necessary to realistically see where a decision is headed. Because of our brain’s capacity for efficiency, we often give up the benefits of strenuous thought.
Saying things like, “that won’t work here”, “it’s too expensive, we’ll never get the budget for it”,“so-and-so will never go along with it,” and many similar statements slam the door on what might just be the breakthrough that turns the organization around.
The energy and high-level thought that comes from considering multiple options not only increases morale by encouraging people to contribute their wackiest ideas, but actually bring innovative solutions to the surface. There is no doubt that our world is getting more complex and that technology has accelerated the pace of organizational life, almost to an unbearable speed. Todd Conkright is a performance technologist, human capital strategist, and organizational development professional. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. You need to find your balance by thinking slowly with strategy and thinking quickly with your instincts.
Creative people are typically more emotional than brand leaders and value pride more than the brand leader.
The biggest conflict with strategy are those action-oriented people, who believe that doing something is better than doing nothing.
For instance, maybe talk “big ideas” on a Friday morning so you can take the weekend to think, yet schedule quick updates on Monday afternoon that clears your mind for the week.
Too many leaders try to impress everyone with the best answers—next time stump the room with the best question. When I press them, the common answer I get is “making choices” and “having a long term vision”.

As soon as you see the opportunity, you must act quickly before others see the same opportunity.
It offers potential proof to everyone that this strategy will work, helping rally others–the team, agency and even your boss. You must be the one to see how to transform what you have gained so far into a new pathway that allows you to go after the bigger win. That power may be with the consumers you have won over, competitors that you have gained against, retailers that you have shown proven success or power you see with media options that allows you to continue to exploit your early success. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Maybe if we start there we can better identify whether we are doing it, and how we might do it better. Our normal problem-solving techniques, including brainstorming, are barely scratching the surface of what is possible as far as solutions are concerned. So we must challenge the status quo, meaning that we have to face our limited thinking head-on and push ourselves to see more. The rigor required for foresight prevents our well-organized minds from resting and reflecting. And to be honest, our organizations have created this mindset by reinforcing narrow-mindedness. To answer these challenges of more information and the need for better and quicker decisions, we must learn to be better strategic thinkers. Entrepreneurship is important, but the quality of our thinking cannot just produce more ideas, or they will quickly fizzle out and die, or get eaten up by the competition.
He helps organizations and individuals mind the gap between what is and what ought to be through analysis of current state and strategic design of processes and practices to achieve what is possible.
While pure strategic people would make for a great consultant, I would not want them running my brand. These creative people want to make work they can show off, while the Marketer wants to make work that drives growth. Even at the VP level, I did my own monthly share report that forced me to dig in on the data so that I knew my business and I would be able to draw conclusions beneath the surface.
If you want to demonstrate to senior management that you are strategic, instead of showing that you have the best answers, try showing them that you have the best questions. I see those as components of strategy, but equally they could easily be applied to tactics. A good strategic mind can turn data into knowledge and wisdom that allows you to see potential opportunity for you to take advantage of and help win in the market.
In this modern economy, the winners are faster, not because they take random action, but that they are able to map out the series of events in a way that takes advantage of their strengths and quickly matches those up to opportunities they discover. This is the starting point to seeing a degree of success and smaller shifts in positional power.
The goal here is to turn your smaller early win into the bigger win that resembles the original vision. It’s important to look at things from a new angle, to as ourselves why today’s performance, sales, market share, operational processes, and financial results is unacceptable. But this acting without thinking can also dig grooves in our minds that are hard to get out of. We tend to settle for an incremental shift rather than a break-through, and hope for the best outcome with the least amount of effort.
When we take our beliefs and actions to the end of their logical progression, they may just lead us back to where we started from rather than to the new horizon we were hoping for. The best strategic thinkers are those who can train themselves to really consider the probable results of a number of options with realistic insight. We go with our first instinct and dismiss all kinds of alternatives because they do not fit our parameters of possibility.

No alternatives are shut out of discussion, but are weighed for the unique merit they bring to the discussion.
We must go beyond the creative to the wise, which can only be accomplished by challenging the status quo, increasing our capacity for foresight, and improving our ability to explore alternatives.
Todd is owner and chief consultant of Cornerstone Global Training and Performance Solutions in Omaha, Nebraska. They would keep analyzing things to death, asking questions over and over, without ever taking action. Marketers need to find the ideal balance between science and art, acting as both “artist” and “scientist”. Slowing down can help you to be more logical and effortful, providing deeper thinking that many times is hidden away from the day-to-day parts of the job.
When you are with your team, instead of looking to tell them what to do at every turn, ask them great questions that make them think.
We have mapped out 7 key elements that are essential for good strategic choices: vision, focus, opportunity, speed, early win, leverage, gateway. Challenge yourself to think of the longer term, beyond your current situation, so that you can put a stake in the ground of where you want to be.
The best strategy has focus, that serves to limit those choices to match up to the limited resources that you will apply.
You should always be analyzing and assessing situations in the marketplace with regular deep dives on your business to uncover opportunities. It may be a test market validation, a breakthrough with a smaller group of consumers, a win at a certain retailer, or seeing underlying tracking scores that show the brand is moving in the right direction.
I see too many Brand Leaders who are so smart that they go too quickly through their strategic plan, choosing the obvious options because they never stop to ask the great questions that forces the deeper thinking needed for strategy. The best ideas always seemed to come from out of no where, usually when my mind was freed up from the constant constraints of deadlines, to-do-lists and forecasts. By mapping out these 7 elements, our hope is that it provides a challenge to the way you think and a good conversation starter to have with those on your team that you want to be more strategic. While the action oriented tactical people get stuff done, I am not sure I want them running my brand either. The “scientists” type Marketers are super analytical, who can tell a great story linked with numbers, but then when it comes time to execute they cannot get past their rational side and they miss out on using data to go to the emotional side of marketing. We reserve fast thinking for the execution side of Marketing, which is more instinctual, automatic, emotional, subconscious and gut reaction. They would make great ads, great packaging and highly innovative social media executions but no one ever interrupts them to say “are we going in the right direction?” While it is really hard to come up with strategies, it is even harder to stay on strategy. On the other side, the “artist” type brand manager is normally a good “do-er” who makes great packaging, advertising or promotions that entice consumers. There has to a willingness to take risks to put your resources against the choice you believe will pay back. I want someone running my brand who is both strategic and action-oriented, almost equally so. They have great natural instincts, but they cannot always link what they are doing with the strategy and the numbers that it takes to run a business. We believe you should think slowly with strategy and go with instincts when it comes to execution.

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