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Transforming Tomorrow: The Crucial Alliance of Lateral and Strategic Thinking for Leaders

Updated: Jun 21


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Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a transformative training program on Strategic Thinking, a groundbreaking initiative co-developed by de Bono Limited and Dr. Julia Sloan from Columbia University. This innovative approach weaves together the lateral thinking principles of Edward de Bono with the strategic insights of Dr. Sloan, reshaping our understanding of strategy in contemporary organisational landscapes. 


The Fusion of Lateral and Strategic Thinking


de Bono's lateral thinking has long been celebrated for its ability to break through traditional patterns of thought, fostering creativity and innovation.

Dr. Sloan's work at Columbia University adds a layer of strategic depth to this lateral thinking approach, creating a synergy that enables individuals to navigate complex challenges with a more profound and effective mindset.

Strategic thinking, according to Dr. Sloan, transcends the boundaries of traditional strategic planning and execution. It involves the nuanced ability to hold multiple, sometimes conflicting perspectives simultaneously, resisting the urge to hastily reach a definitive conclusion. This process of navigating paradoxes empowers individuals to explore novel directions that may not have been considered within the constraints of conventional strategic frameworks.


Distinguishing Strategic Thinking, Planning, and Execution


It is imperative to differentiate between strategic thinking, strategic planning, and strategic execution. While planning entails goal-setting, strategy formulation, and resource allocation, execution centres on implementing the devised plans. Strategic thinking, as the foundational step, influences the quality of ideas and perspectives that shape the subsequent planning and execution phases.


The Relevance of Strategic Thinking in Leadership


In the contemporary business landscape characterised by dynamism and uncertainty, strategic thinking is emerging as a critical skill for leaders across all organisational levels. The ability to navigate ambiguity, think critically, and embrace innovative approaches is paramount for staying ahead in a rapidly evolving environment. Strategic thinking enables leaders to anticipate change, identify opportunities, and adapt swiftly to unforeseen challenges.

As aptly stated by Bono, if the thinking behind an action is inadequate, the result will be inadequate too.  Neglecting the strategic thinking component in favour of an exclusive focus on planning and execution can lead to inadequacies in the overall strategic process.


Final Thought


The marriage of de Bono's lateral thinking and Dr. Julia Sloan's strategic insights is an evolution of strategic management.  Acknowledging the vital role that lateral thinking plays in any strategy formulation is essential for organisations to navigate the challenges of the modern business landscape.  This new, creative and holistic approach to strategy ensures that the thinking driving any action is not only adequate but innovative, further ensuring that the results derived from strategic initiatives are not merely satisfactory but transformative.


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Contact hello@thethtinkingcompany.co.za at The Thinking Company to find out how your leaders can be trained in Strategic Thinking.  The Thinking Company is the Official partner for de Bono and Dr. Julia Sloan.  Our trainers, facilitators and coaches are passionate and experienced.  We are able to deliver customised learning interventions and facilitate strategic thinking workshops with your teams. 


Written by: Nicola Tyler

Date: 11 February 2024


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