Expertise in strategic thinking is not the product of innate ability and pure serendipity. It arises from specific experiences (personal, interpersonal, organizational and external) which occur over 10 or more years.
Strategic thinking is generally considered important to a company’s performance.1 Indeed, some have advocated for companies to develop the strategic thinking of their executives as a core competency. But how exactly should organizations accomplish this? Past studies on the subject have been limited, typically focusing on singular teaching methods, experiences or planning processes.2 As such, the research has yielded little insight into the broader picture of how individuals tend to acquire expertise in strategic thinking. What types of work experiences, for example, are more important than others, and do they need to follow any specific chronology? To answer these and other questions, I conducted a study that identified executives who were considered the top strategic thinkers in their industry.3 (See “About the Research.”) The study then investigated the totality of experiences (educational, job related or other) that contributed to the high ability of those individuals. In addition, the research investigated the different ways in which the executives acquired their expertise in strategic thinking — a process that typically took more than a decade.