Strategic mindset: thinking forward key for progress – David Robson, author, Intelligence Trap


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Present market reality reveals there is no permanent market advantage anymore. Any business can be displaced the moment it stops to refine and adapt its strategy to find better ways to serve its market. This is the overall logic behind ‘strategic mindset’ as developed by Patricia Chen of the University of Singapore, and highlighted by David Robson, the author of ‘Intelligence Trap, Why Smart People Do Dumb Things’.

Strategic mindset is about looking for ways to improve on current advantage. It sets out to improve and create efficiency even when times are good – such as when market shares are expanding, and the business seems to be doing the right number.

The intelligence trap: Why smart people make stupid mistakes | New ...
David Robson, author of the ‘Intelligence Trap’

Conversely too, when business isn’t doing well, strategic mindset encourages searching for ways to learn from what isn’t working and what works, while turning insight into an upgraded knowledge of the business model to create more efficient products or services.

Citing how Thomas Edison failed 3000 times before finally coming up with a filament that works perfectly for the lightbulb, Robson said, “He didn’t just haphazardly move from one failed design after another, after all, but constantly adapted and refined his ideas. At each step of the journey, he was making intelligent decisions that learnt from the failures and built on the small successes.”

In sum, the proponent of strategic mindset encourages continuous business improvement such as building on ‘small successes’ when the business is doing fine; and learning, refining and adapting insight taken from failures when the business seems to be doing badly.

The trajectory of modern market demands ‘forward thinking’. Product and service upgrading is key to staying competitive. That defines Google’s continuous push to offer new products and improve existing ones every month. If Skype had taken up strategic mindset, it would be hard to imagine Zoom ‘dusting’ it within the space of a quarter.

Tesla is putting the auto industry on its feet. As well, Amazon and Walmart know they can’t take their feet off the innovation pedal. If either of the business sleeps on its watch, it is going to be a ‘goner’. There is certainly no place for sloppy brands or business anymore.

Robson further captured the reality within the ever shifting competitive landscape in present market. He scribbled, “While others diligently follow the same convoluted path, people with the strategic mindset are constantly looking for a more efficient route forwards”.

‘Thinking forward’ such as probing deep to question everything is at the core of developing a strategic mindset. It asks, ‘would my business still remain appealing if so and so changes take place in the market tomorrow or next?’

On a general note, Patricia Chen has developed a set of questions to test businesses strategic mindset:

  • When you are stuck on something, how often do you ask yourself: “What are things I can do to help myself?”
  • Whenever you feel like you are not making progress, how often do you ask yourself: “Is there a better way of doing this?”
  • Whenever you feel frustrated with something, how often do you ask yourself: “How can I do this better?”
  • In moments when you feel challenged, how often do you ask yourself: “What are things I can do to make myself better at this?”
  • When you are struggling with something, how often do you ask yourself: “What can I do to help myself?”
  • Whenever something feels difficult, how often do you ask yourself: “What can I do to get better at this?”

You can rate you answers on a scale of 1 [never] to 5 [all the time]. The higher your score, the more you can be sure you possess a strategic mindset.

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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