Strategic thinking: How to come up with the “I Wish I Had Thought Of That” idea

How many times have you looked at a brilliant solution and thought, “That’s so simple,” or “Why hasn’t someone thought of that before?” A doughnut and a croissant = the cronut. A simple piece of wire bent to hold up a shirt = the coat hanger. Airbnb. The submarine umbrella. Some are the result of spark of creation type brilliance, some of thousands of iterations of research and development. Wherever the idea sits on this spectrum, I can guarantee that there is one thing that links them all together – strategic thought.

Sometimes it is a latent need for a solution to a problem that has been lying in the subconscious for a long time and other times it is a brute force approach. Whichever, it is more likely that a strategic thinking was responsible for both the cronut and the coat hanger.

People often say to me, I’m not creative enough to think of those kind of ideas. I think, as a society, we have done two things that collectively limit the creative output of all. Firstly we have convinced ourselves that anyone without artistic ability cannot be creative. This is just not true. I know great programmers, AV technicians, farmers, and accountants that apply amazing creativity to the solutions they need to find. Creativity is about flexibility in approach, unharnessed thinking that leaves all options open. This creativity is useless unless it is paired with direction, or as we like to call it, strategy. The ability to think ahead and define a direction that is most likely to result in the outcome you need. Even if you are painting an abstract picture you need to initially decide that you want an abstract picture. Some may argue you could start with a different outcome and change your mind half way through. This is fine too. Direction can change anytime. We’ve all changed our route home at the end of the day when we hear about a crash along the way. The point is that it doesn’t matter how creative you are, without direction you won’t get far.

Creative AND strategy will, however get you a very long way.

Secondly, we keep telling ourselves we need to solve world peace. Now, I don’t mean this literally, but we all get caught up with the idea that we can’t possibly apply strategy to what we are doing because it is such a big concept. Many small business owners say to me “We can’t possibly come up with a strategic plan because everything is too complex and interconnected.” My answer, forget all of that stuff. All of the interconnected, complex, un-fixable concepts. Start with a simple definable goal, think about what affects you getting to the goal and build a series of steps that you can action to get there. That’s strategy in motion. Once you have defined the simplest of outcomes you can then apply the same process to each of the actions you have defined to solve these too. Then rinse and repeat. Eventually you will be down at a granular level that is easy to manage and you can delegate the tasks to people in your team and you are off. That’s trickle-down strategy.

Creative, strategy AND action will deliver the outcomes you seek. Sounds like a slogan on one of those inspirational posters, I know. But it is that simple.

And you don’t have to start at the top either. You can start by developing strategies for the smallest of concepts within your brand or organisation. Or anywhere in between.

A strategic plan for your brand or business is like a symphony. It will help you manage, inspire, align and deliver. Once you have a solid strategy people will learn the tune, they will tap their feet, and they will sing along…

But I digress… How do you come up with that “I wish I had thought of it” idea? Easy. Find a niche and develop a strategic response to fill a need. Sounds too easy, right? It is, it’s finding that unmet need that is the hard part. But look around, they are everywhere…