Planning and strategizing are two of the most critical aspects of a business – at all stages. In essence, you can’t get where you want to go if you don’t know where you want to go. Setting goals gives you targets to aim for to achieve progress. The business world has come up with many different strategies for setting and achieving goals, which are themselves constantly evolving into better, more efficient ways of doing things. Strategic thinking and strategic planning are two exercises that can help you build comprehensive goals and the steps you need to achieve them, but they are also two distinctly different events. Here is the difference between strategic thinking versus strategic planning.
Strategic thinking is essentially brainstorming with a more specific focus. Strategic thinking definitely encourages outside-the-box thinking but attempts to keep ideas somewhat close to the box, rather than encouraging even thoughts far from left field. With brainstorming, all ideas, no matter how ludicrous or seemingly ridiculous are encouraged. There is certainly value in brainstorming, such as when you are faced with an entirely new challenge no one has the slightest idea of how to solve or when you are deeply mired in a serious rut. Strategic thinking, however, generally starts off with a more specific problem to solve and some specific parameters to stay within. Brainstorming can help you solve seemingly impossible problems, while strategic thinking aims to solve more moderate issues with more moderate solutions.
Once you use strategic thinking to come up with a list of possibilities, you need to narrow it down to one or two best options, then come up with a series of actions steps or if/then statements to achieve them. For instance, if you want to target a new market, but are not sure if your product will really fly in that market or not, you might organize some focus groups or do some A/B testing. If the product shows a certain level of promise in that market, then you set a next action step. If it doesn’t show promise in that market, then you can pre-arrange a direction you want to head instead. Strategic planning allows you to have one session that covers multiple outcomes and gives you the next steps based on almost any outcome.