Strategic thinking training: Your guide to building an effective strategic thinking training program.

Strategic Thinking Training

Strategic Thinking Training is corporate training that is specifically designed to build an employee’s capability to think and act critically in relation to strategy development especially on building skills to execute corporate strategy more effectively.

Strategic Thinking Training Overview

It’s very easy for someone to say, “My team needs to think more strategically. We need strategic thinking training.” But what does this really mean anyway? To start, what is strategic thinking? Strategic thinking is the ability to critically think through complex business problems, align your thoughts with corporate goals and plan toward the future. It dwells on formulating business objectives and outmaneuvering corporate setbacks and current prevailing challenges. Wow, that’s a mouthful. Unfortunately, strategic thinking is complicated.

Harvard Business School Business Insights defines it as: 

Strategic thinking skills are any skills that enable you to use critical thinking to solve complex problems and plan for the future. These skills are essential to accomplish business objectives, overcome obstacles, and address challenges—particularly if theyre projected to take weeks, months, or even years to achieve(Source). Either definition you look at immediately creates a sense of both relevancy and anxiety. When you read either one, they both make sense. When you read either one, you also get a little overwhelmed with the scale of what has to be taught. 

Don’t worry about the size of the task. Just work on the problem a piece at time. Fancy definitions are great, but the reality is it really does mean different things to different people.

Ideas about how to using business training simulations within training and development

It is important to take the time to write down your own definition of strategic thinking. This will act as the foundation of your strategic thinking training program.Strategic thinking training calls for exquisite problem-solving and decision-making skills obtained through experience or corporate training. These skills empower employees and equip them with additional skills that differentiate them from the rest. They become high-value assets to the company, as they possess other strategic thinking skills, which greatly help the corporation. In our experience, the best strategic thinking training include a managers ability to demonstrate skills in:

  • Applicable Financial Acumen (applied ability to understand an income statement)
  • Strategy Development and Execution
  • Effective Leadership
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration
  • Innovation and Design Thinking
  • Systems Thinking
  • Business Agility

To increase engagement and learning retention with corporate training or employee development.

To apply highly complex and theoretical topics in an effort to increase corporate training learning retention and understanding.

To increase the speed and effectiveness or corporate change initiatives. This is often referred to as strategy acceleration.

Strategic Thinking Training is NOT Business Acumen Training

One of the biggest mistakes managers make when thinking about strategic thinking training is confusing it with Business Acumen training. Do not do this. They are very different things. Avoid being one of those companies waste disturbing amounts of time and money on business acumen training only to learn they now have people that can only look at a balance sheet without complaining. What was probably really needed was strategic thinking training.

The request for “more business acumen training” usually originates from someone not knowing what to ask for or is based on a survey. Don’t waste your money on a deep dive into business acumen training. There is too much reliance financial statements. What you probably really need is strategic thinking training. Strategic thinking training is quite different from business acumen training and you need to ensure you understand the difference.

In 2020, we conducted research over a six month period. The hypothesis was: People who ask for business acumen training don’t care about the balance sheet or statement of cash flow. Here are the results:

  • 82 people called to ask for Business Acumen Training
  • Each caller was given two choices: Option 1: 1 day of income statement training or Option 2: 2 days or training covering the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows.
  • Note: Both programs were quoted at the same price.
  • Results: 78 of the callers requested Option 1!

Whoa! That’s 95% of managers chose the program that has ~66% less topics and 1/2 the amount of time for the same price. Let’s ground this for a second: This was not a full blown study. This was simple back of napkin calculations. This is a very basic example of how strategic thinking training is probably preferred over business acumen training.

The only employees that need to deeply understand the balance sheet are mostly in finance or the top executives at large enterprises. There are a few exceptions to this (such as heavy equipment manufacturer business owners) but in general, managers just need to be competent with the income statement. Why is it mostly about the incomes statements? Because it’s all about corporate profits. The finance department will worry about the right equity to debt ratios, liquidity, correct cash levels, etc… Just remember, strategic thinking looks at the entire organization as a whole which is usually more important.

Not trying to upset or offend people here. But today’s business needs have drastically changed and dramatically sped up. Deep dive into business acumen is rarely needed these days. I’m sure this book will get a few 1 star reviews for this section alone. As I said in the intro, this isn’t going to be a best seller.

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Strategic Thinking Training is What You Probably Need

As mentioned above, fancy definitions are great and can be a good start. But spend a little time digging deeper. Spend some time asking managers what they believe they mean by strategic thinking training. Just be aware they may not actually know themselves. In this case, start with seven or so training topics and shop them around. Here are some great resources to learn a little about strategic thinking and strategy in general (I make zero money off these links):

Harvard Business Review Guides. I’m a big fan of these series. They’re very well done and don’t really try to sell you anything. Just good information.

Here are some quick overview that might spur some ideas for strategic thinking training:

The above articles are designed to be very rapidly digested and not a deep dive into any specific topic.

Strategic Thinking Training Needed?

Corporate leadership teams comprise the top echelons and the leadership bench. Strategic thinking training is vital for the leadership teams, as it equips them with the skills needed to help the corporation outdo, outwit and outperform competitors. Thus, Strategic Thinking Training is the ability to understand the prevailing business’s status quo, create a direction, and formulate solutions to the hurdles the business will face as it trudges on. Strategic thinking training includes strategic initiatives, business acumen skills and additional tools that make it easy for the business to realize set goals, grab and exploit opportunities, and execute laid-down strategies.

Through strategic thinking training, a business is prepared for all the eventualities and plans ahead on how to combat them. Thinking and strategic planning skills are developed, polished and upgraded to foresee challenges and employ the right tools to ensure that the business gallops full-steam through the marketplace minefields, as every challenge was foreseen and planned for beforehand. It is a vital requirement in the modern business environment and one of the tried and tested cheat codes that help corporations excel, grow and realize profits even when the situation dictates otherwise.

Strategic Thinking Training Topics

There are seven distinct topics which point to an effective Strategic Thinking Training session. They bolster all the vital areas of corporate leadership and equip the leadership teams with the knowledge and versatility to conceive and bring forth strategic thinking:

Applicable Financial Acumen – Strategic thinking training has for a long time handled financial acumen but paid less attention to the all-important income statement. If corporate leaders were trained on financial acumen, primarily on the importance of the income statement, they could concentrate their energy on the decisions and changes that improve it, understand how it works, and monitor it in real time.

Strategy Development and Execution – Strategic thinking training should focus on strategy development and execution. These form the basis of Strategic Thinking, and if tackled fully, they should empower managers and other corporate leaders to think outside the box and create the right strategies to address prevailing circumstances. This topic seeks to instill top-notch thinking and decision-making skills and the ability to rally the entire workforce behind new strategies. If the corporate succeeds in ensuring that the right amount of energy is channeled towards new strategies, their development and execution become attainable and profitable.

Effective Leadership – This is a must inside of a strategic thinking training program. Many corporate leaders are exiting employment through natural attrition, leading to an increased retirement rate. Many businesses do not have a formidable leadership bench, which poses the threat of leadership and skills gaps. Upcoming leaders are faced with a huge challenge, which can be addressed through Strategic Thinking training. The training encompasses effective leadership norms and how good leadership withers challenges brought by attrition. Effective leadership training focuses on applied leadership development, corporate financial performance and strategy execution.

Cross-functional Collaboration – Strategic thinking needs demonstrate how all parts of a business should be able to work together towards the realization of set corporate goals. Technological alienation, coupled with business silos, has made it difficult for collaboration across the board. Strategic Thinking Training should equip managers with the skills to boost workforce cohesiveness, making cross-functional collaboration and teamwork attainable. If the workforce regularly experiences the benefits of cohesion and teamwork, it will become a strategic team which can implement, execute and accelerate strategic plans and initiatives laid down by the corporation.

Business Agility – Strategic Thinking Training should empower the leadership teams to embrace and be resilient to change in the marketplace. A corporate leader should not be afraid to initiate change, adjust how the company operates, and modify the products delivered to the clientele, all in a bid to boost productivity and revenue. Strategic thinking training should focus on business agility due to the dynamic nature of the marketplace.

Innovation and Design Thinking – Strategy Thinking Training should equip corporate leaders to think and solve problems on the go. The workplace is dynamic and unpredictable, despite the numerous established patterns. This means that issues can show up randomly and stall operations until they are resolved. A leader should be able to summon innovative and design thinking and utilize team-based problem-solving methods.

Systems Thinking – Strategic thinking training usually focuses on the systems side of business management. This is a unified approach to prevailing problems and the creation of holistic solutions. It is an important Strategic Thinking Training topic, as it indulges managers and department leaders on how different faculties work towards a common goal. Thus, systems thinking focuses on how different systems work together and how streamlining the operations in one area creates a positive ripple effect through the other departments, leading to improved performance in the entire corporation.

Strategic Thinking Training and Strategic Thinking Trainers

Corporate Training should lean on engagement, relevancy, and applicability and push for the development of leadership skills. As such, hiring managers should go out of their way, the source for the ultimate strategic thinking trainers, and ensure they can deliver what the corporation is looking for. The training should be poised to deliver the skills and knowledge, improve the workforce and transition from a regular unmotivated team to a highly efficient, versatile, and adaptable team.

Strategic Thinking Training and Business Acumen Training

Strategic Thinking Training incorporates Business Acumen skills and Business Acumen Training. This being said, and as mentioned above, this needs to integrated at a very usable and applicable level. Custom training instills knowledge on how the corporation makes money, and this enlightens the workforce on the vital roles they play in keeping the company moving forward. Through Business Acumen training, departmental leaders learn how a lack of collaboration and smooth transitions from one department to another can negatively affect production chains, affecting the final product or service delivery. Thus, incorporating business acumen into strategic thinking training comes in handy when it is time to empower the trainees with skills beyond financial statements and the corporation’s general finance. Strategic thinking training infuses Business Acumen Training with a holistic approach, transforming corporate and departmental leaders into business-minded strategic planners and thinkers. If corporate trainers deliver strategic thinking training with the right amount of business acumen skills, then the training sessions will meet their intended objectives and leave the corporation with a strategically prepared leadership team, leadership bench and a vibrant workforce.

Accelerate Strategic Change
Business Simulations for Strategy Acceleration

Strategic Thinking Business Simulations

Business simulation form a central part of Strategic Thinking Training. Corporate trainers use these amazing tools to expose the trainees to a realistic yet risk-free training model, where they can make key decisions and observe how their choices can affect a corporation. Business Simulations can be tailored to fit a specific company’s needs and thus offer an integrated training experience. If done well, they help equip corporate managers and the leadership bench with the right knowledge and skills to adapt to change, adopt new strategies, make decisions on the whim, and confront every challenge that shows up. Leading corporations have adopted business simulation training within strategic thinking training due to its realism and ability to seal leadership gaps. Strategic thinking training incorporates strategic thinking business simulations to give the trainees a custom yet effective training experience, arm them with modern skills to tackle current and future problems and prepare them to make the right decisions when the corporate world runs into challenges. This increases the survivability of the company, its ability to compete favorably, and the time it takes the corporation to bounce back. 

Strategic Thinking Training - Final Remarks

Strategic Thinking Training is the all-in-one training package that every corporation should embrace. It strengthens the workforce and equips departmental leaders and managers with the right skills and attitude to confront the unending challenges in the 21st-century marketplace. It packs a tone of contemporary and relevant topics and training techniques, which equip the trainees with all it takes to stand out, foresee challenges, adequately prepare for them, and sail through the murkiness while their peers grope around.

leadership development

Business Simulation Tips, Tricks, and Getting Started Guide

Getting started using business simulations can be daunting and intimidating. Taken directly from a Forbes Article titled, “Business Simulations Can Be A Powerful Tool For Leadership Development — But Proceed With Caution“, here are the top tips to getting started:

  1. Start with a small business simulation – The single most important pearl of wisdom is to start small. The business training simulation should be a small portion of your budget and program time. Experiment with something that is ready to go or requires minimal tailoring. You can take on something larger after you’ve gained experience and have seen where expansion is justified.
  2. Practice extreme focus. The importance of staying focused with a business simulation is essential. Leadership-development managers often call with a laundry list of requirements from the business simulation. It is critical that you sit down with a piece of paper and write down the goals and objectives of your leadership-development program. The simulation needs to align behind these learning objectives and not stray from the path. This will help your training participants better align with the training goals and allow them to apply the content more effectively in their day-to-day work. Avoid expansion or scope creep.
  3. Consider all business simulation modes. When people think about business simulations, they visualize amazing digital tools. The computer-based solutions are exciting, and they sizzle. This is great and can sometimes be important (did someone say buy-in?). But don’t discount the effectiveness of simple paper-based solutions.
  4. Stay in charge of your business simulation. Most companies contract an outside firm to create more complex business simulations for leadership development. These are complicated tools and it takes a lot of time to create simulations that are effective. But remember, you are in charge. When you work with a firm, don’t get persuaded to go out of your comfort zone. Remember, these firms are working for you and you are the boss.
  5. Be comfortable with your business simulation provider. This may seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how often we clean up problematic business simulation programs because a company chose a provider that was “the best in the industry,” but that they felt slightly bullied by. Ensure you are comfortable with your business simulation partner.

Summary Overview of Business Simulations for Leadership development and Other Corporate Training Initiatives

Business simulations for leadership development are incredibly effective and are more affordable than ever. However, it’s important to stay absolutely focused on the goals of the simulation and your training program. Say no to scope creep and ensure you are comfortable with the solution. In the end, the leadership-development simulation is just a part of your overall development program. It should act accordingly. Always stay in charge and ensure you are comfortable with your team. Finally, start small and grow into the larger solution you might crave today. Employing these simple tips will help ensure you are set up for success.


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