Monday, November 8, 2010

Can "Strategic Thinking" Be Taught?

I read a great blog post last week by the HR Bartender that has really made me think. That is what great blogs, do...make you think. Sharlyn Lauby discussed the fact that strategic thinking and creating a strategy are 2 different but interrelated competencies.

As a teacher/facilitator/participant in both of these subjects, I began to think, where do these skills sets come from?

Are you born strategic or can you learn to be strategic? (focusing on the HR profession)

Before I attempt to answer that question let's think about the human brain for a moment. My business partner, Barbara Hughes is a licensed facilitator of the HBDI instrument which assesses our thinking styles or preferences. I will attempt to use some of the HBDI methodology to understand and answer the question above.

We all know the discussion around right brained people being the "creative" types and left brained people being the "number crunching" types.

The HBDI model divides the brain into 4 quadrants (see picture above) with the right side being your creative, people oriented side and the left being your planning, organizational analytical side.

I would like to compare strategic thinking and strategic planning as those are the two skills sets I hear about most often in my work.

So, strategic thinking is all about the right side of the brain which includes, thinking about the future, innovation, new ideas, etc.

Strategic planning to me, takes on some of the left side as you are planning, setting goals, and formulating action plans. Also, a big part of strategic planning is obviously about the people which is part of the right side of the brain.

Fast forward to today and HR's dilemma to become strategic...(whatever that means to the profession). Given the above information on our brains and how we are wired, it would seem that we as HR professionals should be awesome at the planning part. Where we may need some help is in the "strategic thinking" area as typical HR professionals do not have a preference for that type of exercise.

Can we learn, you betcha! But not with any typical school curriculum. Sure, we can get the basics and read theory. Thinking strategically requires practice, practice, and more practice.

The first step is, assessing your preferences and becoming aware of what you naturally prefer to do and those areas that you don't show a strong preference.

Back to my question, Are you born strategic or can you learn to be strategic? What do you think, let's get this discussion started....
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