Think Differently, Do Differently – A Guide to Thinking Strategically


“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

One of the hardest challenges we will ever face in life is our own thinking process. In the workplace how we think about, and react to the responsibilities and expectations placed on us will have a direct effect on our level of job satisfaction, performance and success.

So let’s talk about how we react. Better yet, let’s start by talking about how we think which determines how we will react. The next time we’re faced with a seemingly impossible task how can thinking and reacting differently make us successful in facing a challenging task in the workplace? In a course on Strategic Thinking at Brookings Executive Education (BEE), Jackson Nickerson, PhD, Associate Dean and professor at Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis lays out a four step strategic process to help us think differently and do differently.

Step 1: Find, frame and formulate challenges – A challenge must first be formulated in a comprehensive way before designing a strategy to resolve it.

Do not get overwhelmed by the size or scope of the challenge. Put things in perspective, break them down to make them easier to digest and think through.

Step 2: Organize what you know and what you need to know to search for solutions – A strategy is a high level solution; an approach to resolving a (formulated) challenge.

After researching and reviewing relevant materials take the time to thoroughly think through the challenge you’ve been tasked with solving and commit significant time to thinking through your options. What makes sense? What does not makes sense? What are my best options? Are all of them feasible? Give yourself room to come up with several possible solutions and objectively narrow them down.

Step 3: Implement solutions by leading change – A good strategy is a feasible plan that responds to the challenge, implements a solution and considers the range of potential consequences (click here for more information on leading change).

Step 4: Day to day management of capabilities – Keep things in perspective. Stay focused on the overall goal/vision.

Again, don’t get so bogged down in the details that it starts to have an effect on your thinking. Keeping things in perspective will help you remember how the small things fit into the overall vision and why they’re important.

Kimberly Hall is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Francesca El-Attrash

Great post Kimberly! Really helpful list to go through and calm down when faced with something daunting at work. Thanks for this!

Avi Dey

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
Steve Jobs