Managers Need to Take Time to Think

Although the author of this piece focuses on strategic thinking, strategic thinking is in fact a sub-type of critical thinking. The author says that “The goal of strategic thinking is to find strategic insights.” In other words, the goal of strategic thinking is to sort good strategic hypotheses (hypotheses about which strategies will work best) from bad ones.

From the MIT Sloan Management Review: The Lost Art of Thinking in Large Organizations, by Duncan Simester

If you ask managers in a large organization to approach a strategic business problem, their focus often quickly narrows to proposing solutions. When asked why, many respond that they don’t have time to think.

How did we arrive in a state where managers do not recognize that thinking is part of their job? The answer reflects a relentless focus on execution in many large companies. A company becomes big by finding a successful business model — and then scaling it massively. This necessitates building a finely tuned system with highly standardized processes. To get promoted in such an environment requires an almost singular focus on execution. In other words, it requires action more than thinking. However, once executives are promoted to a senior level, these new business leaders must be able to think strategically. Ironically, the very skills in execution that led to their promotions often make these executives ill-equipped for their new roles, since their strategy thinking muscles have withered from disuse….

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