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April 2022

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strategic thinking

Running a growing enterprise often provides little time for strategic thinking. In fact, according to The Persimmon Group and Center for Creative Leadership, only 4-7% of business leaders are considered strategic thinkersIf you’re one of the lucky ones, good for you!

Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs are consumed by day-to-day operations. So instead of settling into their favorite spot for deep thinking, most collapse at the end of a demanding day.

Although the struggle to find time for strategic thinking is a reality, it remains a vital business skill.

No Time for Thinking?

There are several underlying reasons for the inability to find time for strategic thinking.

For instance, your business model may not work as well as planned. Or perhaps your business model has become obsolete.

For some business owners, their service is underpriced. Sadly, underpricing can lead to over-commitment to meet your financial obligations.

Equally important is delegating to your team and trusting them to deliver.

Although each of these adds to the challenge of having time to master strategic thinking, all is not lost!

strengthen strategic thinking

Strengthen Your Strategic Muscles in the Cracks of Time

“Cracks of time” are found while waiting for a Zoom meeting to begin. Or when stuck in traffic or waiting in line at Starbucks. So rather than wrapping yourself around the angst of the wait, use this time to sharpen your thinking.

Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Reflect during “Wasted” Time (Daily): Wasted time is the moments not being spent productively. Examples include jumping from one task to another, being irritated by things you can’t control, or scrolling through social media to combat fatigue.

Instead, reflect on what you can do differently to avoid unproductive, costly time at the end of each day.

2. Consider Egocentrism (Daily): Personal bias and egocentrism keep us from seeing beyond self-favor.

While planning your day consider how your bias might be getting in the way of achieving your goals. Then, ask yourself, “what would a rational person with no emotional bias do in your situation?” Hmmm!

3. Solve a Problem (Daily): Make traffic work for you. Use your drive time for reflection and problem-solving. Focus on a problem with a solution rather than waste time (See #1) thinking about things beyond your control. And consider your options for action in the short-term and long-term.

4. Focus on Intellectual Standards (Weekly): The Universal Intellectual Standards defined by the Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Model (Paul and Elder, 2001) include:

  • Clarity
  • Precision
  • Accuracy
  • Relevance
  • Depth
  • Breadth
  • Logical
  • Significance
  • Fairness
  • Sufficiency

Each week, select a focus to improve one of these areas.

For instance, consider glitches, typos, missteps, and do-overs during accuracy week. In addition, ask questions related to your accuracy, such as, “Did I spell check?” or “Am I communicating instructions clearly for the reader?” 

Also, consider reading up on the subject to move you beyond your immediate understanding.

5. Select an Intellectual Trait to Internalize (Monthly): The Universal Intellectual Traits according to the Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework include:

  • Humility
  • Courage
  • Empathy
  • Autonomy
  • Integrity
  • Perseverance
  • Reason
  • Fair-Mindedness

Focus on strengthening one trait each month. For instance, during your courage month, consider how you might push beyond your comfort zone to accomplish a truly remarkable and inspiring feat.

6. Analyze Business Influences (Quarterly) Who—or what—inspires your actions? Look around you. Equally important, what traits do you admire in others? Then, carefully select who—and what—you emulate. After all, Oscar Wilde said, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Become your unique brand of entrepreneur. As is the case of business branding, skills need continual refinement.

It’s a Wrap!

By utilizing the seemingly insignificant “cracks of time” in a different way, you can begin to invigorate your strategic thinking muscle. And you will be better equipped to address problems and recognize opportunities.

If you’re ready to strengthen your strategic thinking muscles, we’re here for you.

Let’s Chat About Your Business Needs 

small business

Who hasn’t made a wish while blowing out a candle or breaking a wishbone? Mythical thinking, loosely defined as a story or a tale, can’t be proven. Lacking any facts, this type of future thinking explains the world around us. Fundamental to all human beings, the notion of mythical thinking never really leaves us.

What does this mean for the small businesses owner who needs to master strategic thinking? 

small business

Don’t Feed The Unicorn

Small business entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch. Most have never met an opportunity they couldn’t leverage or a problem that can’t be solved immediately.

On the other end of the spectrum, some business owners are more cautious and risk-averse with their unique mythical thinking brand.

Mythical thinking also exists in the minds of our clients, as in the case of expectations of your services. It’s a potential source of conflict, controversy, and churn when it goes unrecognized.

Sadly, mythical thinking gets us in trouble. Void any facts, it’s subjective, less direct, and based on personal feelings. Plus, mythical thinking creates a gap between expectations and reality that is a natural stress antagonizer.

Hit a dead end and watch the uprising of mythical thinking. It’s the fertilizer of bad ideas. It propagates when we believe that everything will be different, even though we perform the same actions.

Did you get “lucky?” When a breakthrough that “seems” to come out of nowhere is attributed to “luck” outside of oneself, mythical thinking flourishes.

Ah, yes, but what does mythical thinking look like in real life? Some of the more common phrases lurking in the minds of an entrepreneur include the following:

  1. If I build it, they will come. Most entrepreneurs aren’t going to blurt this out – at least not in public. However, actions – or lack thereof – indicate an expectation that a yellow brick road will rain forth crowds to their storefront (or website).
  2. I’m supposed to know all there is to build a business successfully. Egad! No one wants to look like a fool, especially in front of a potential client, and certainly not in front of another entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs are masters of their craft, not entrepreneurs.
  3.  I’ve got to do it all – myself. Well, this sounds plumb crazy as you read it. Yet, most entrepreneurs fear others cannot, or will not, do the job as well as they can/will.
  4.  I need to work 24/7 for my business to succeed. “Yes, and” as we say in comedy improv. Hard work is an essential piece of the success equation – as is working smart. Working more than 60 hours a week is not a badge of honor or anything deserving of applause. That brand of mythical thinking played well during the post-World War II Industrial Age. Today, it is a significant cause of burnout and contributes to a health crisis.
  5.  I “have to” follow established business practices. You would be surprised how many entrepreneurs feel the need to follow in step with what the so-called experts say. Those who have walked before you can be a source of wisdom; however, you bring a distinctive trademark of creativity to your business that you should not dismiss.
  6.  This is the way we’ve always done it. Wow! As fast as the marketplace is changing, we can hardly afford to do things the same way two days in a row without the risk of losing relevance.

Sadly, this kind of mythical thinking prevents entrepreneurs from reaching out for the support they need to succeed.

Keep Calm & Analyze

Entrepreneurship, and its accompanying success, are anything but mythical. Entrepreneurship is a learned skill. It requires logical thinking based on scientific and empirical data. Facts, controlled experiments, and rational evidence (like key performance metrics) contribute to the objectivity needed to succeed in the world of entrepreneurship.

Each day in the life of an entrepreneur is a clean slate, allowing a fresh, new start.

So, arm yourself with your magic sword, and let’s slay some dragons!

strategic thinking for small business growth

What actions do smart entrepreneurs take when business growth stalls? Most double down and work harder or throw more money at the perceived problem — or both! Neither of these options is advisable — or desirable — without the application of some strategic thinking to your business growth.

A recent strategic coaching conversation with “Katherine” (not her real name for the sake of confidentiality) is a perfect example of how strategic thinking shapes business growth. Katherine had already invested a lion’s share of time and money into her growth initiative. As results failed to materialize, her initial frustration turned to irritation. Finally, in total exasperation, she decided to move forward with a project that would be an additional — and substantial — investment of resources in hopes that it would be “the thing” that fueled her small business growth.

What Strategic Thinking Does For Your Business

Before doing so, we decided to put strategic thinking to the test. We took a peek at her performance metrics to glean whatever insight was available.

For many small business entrepreneurs, looking at performance metrics is like partaking in a Rorschach test. We know it’s supposed to mean something but, honestly, it all looks like a bunch of undefined, incoherent inkblots.

strategic thinking for small business growth


Using our best investigative skills, we poked, prodded, and cajoled her performance metrics. We compared them to industry benchmarks. We aligned them with her goals for growth and her business growth strategies.

What we discovered — in a word — was hopeful!

Ultimately, our strategic thinking skills cracked her performance metrics wide open to reveal a set of actions Katherine could take immediately to beef up her business success — before heading out with a substantial investment.

Isn’t that exciting? Time will tell how Katherine’s actions will ultimately shape her business success. Until then, she won’t have to grow her business in the dark with fingers crossed hoping for success. She has actions that are strategic in nature to guide her.

If you’re willing to apply strategic thinking to positively shape your business growth and save time and treasure, count me in!


Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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