Good strategic thinking and decision making often require a shift in perspective, particularly in environments characterized by significant uncertainty and change. What worked before may not apply in the future. The authors acknowledge that asking “what if” questions about the future may create discomfort. Asking such questions forces people to step back and challenge current assumptions.
In the authors’ view, the questions leaders pose can prevent them from solving the right problem or seeing more innovative solutions. Leaders are often too narrow or overly protective of the current business or assume that the old habits, business models and regulations will remain intact. This article builds on the authors’ new book, Winning the Long Game: How Strategic Leaders Shape the Future. It encourages leaders to examine their businesses from multiple perspectives: to think “outside in”; to explore future scenarios; to be contrarian; to look for patterns; to create new options; and to learn from failure. Drawing on examples from companies including Google, Tesla Motors, Pixar, Netflix and DuPont, the authors discuss six questions:
•How well do you understand the implications of broad market trends and less visible undercurrents for your business and for upcoming strategic choices?
•How thoroughly have you analyzed major external uncertainties and future scenarios that could significantly impact your business decisions?
•Do you regularly seek out diverse views to see multiple sides of complex issues, and do you purposely explore important problems from several angles?
•Do you deploy multiple lenses to connect dots from diverse sources and stakeholders, and do you delve deep to see important connections that others miss?
•Do you generate and evaluate multiple options when making a strategic decision, and do you consider the risks of each, including unintended consequences?
•Do you encourage experiments and “failing fast” as a source of innovation and quick learning?