Adaptive Strategic Thinkers

19 Apr

strategic-thinking1After exploring the Six Habits of True Strategic Thinkers outlined by Paul Schoemaker, I can’t help but consider the challenges facing brick and mortar universities and how we might use such an approach to meet the challenges ahead.  The fundamentals of how we approach learning are transforming due to ready access to online resources.  Content expertise no longer resides exclusively “on-location” but valuable resources still exist on residential campuses that can promote immersive learning.  Since today’s learners navigate information online, traditional classroom learning is not needed as much for that and therefore, faculty are finding new ways to guide learning and engage students in collaborative exercises that allow for greater synthesis of content and deeper critical thinking.  Our learning should not be limited to simply remembering, understanding, and applying knowledge.  A residential campus can create opportunities for understanding how we process information differently, how we might reach the same (or different) conclusions through different approaches, strategies, expertise, and mindsets.  As I read the six habits below, I could not help but consider the transformation we are undertaking and how a framework could facilitate that transformation.

  1. Anticipate: Anticipate the impact of such things as MOOCS, badges versus degrees, mobile pedagogy, virtual reality, and gaming on the learning process.
  2. Think Critically: Think in ways that challenge current beliefs and mindsets while respecting the dignity and expertise of our colleagues.
  3. Interpret: Interpret our changing environment by seeking patterns that can help us to think differently about pedagogy and learning.
  4. Decide: Make decisions that support incremental change but in ways that effectively position the university in the marketplace.
  5. Align: Align people and resources in ways that transform but also respect diverse view points and expertise.
  6. Learn: Learn from our successes and mistakes to ensure our strategies can be adjusted accordingly.

Six Habits of True Strategic Thinkers


  • Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
  • Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
  • Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically

Critical thinkers question everything.

  • Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
  • Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
  • Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions


  • Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously


  • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
  • Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
  • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views


  • Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
  • Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
  • Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support


  • Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
  • Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track
  • Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Source: Paul J. H. Schoemaker


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