Entrepreneurs

Hone Your Strategic Thinking Skills With These 8 Books


Almost every professional recognizes the value of strategic thinking. But in a frenetic world, how can you hone that skill when you’re often pulled in a million directions? As a business owner, I face the challenge every day of choosing between putting out fires (e.g., an overflowing inbox, a client situation that needs finessing) and pursuing important long-term goals (e.g., planning for the next six months, helping to develop an employee’s skills).

Recently, I set a goal of reading one book a month on strategic thinking. I wanted to get others’ wisdom on thinking differently about the way our company tackles challenges. Here are eight books I’ve read that sparked my entrepreneurial thinking. 

1. The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker In a Short-Term World by Dorie Clark

Newly released from Harvard Business Review Press, The Long Game helps you apply the principles of strategic thinking to your life and career. Few people understand strategic thinking as well as Dorie Clark, who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and whose LinkedIn Learning course on strategic thinking has been taken by more than 1.2 million learners. She shares intriguing strategies such as how to “optimize for interesting” in your career, how to get better at creating white space, and how to master the art of “strategic patience.”

2. Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands by Drew Neisser 

Renegade Marketing explores the commonalities of successful business leaders. By conducting interviews with marketing leaders and observing corporate giants like IBM, Drew Neisser discovered their success secrets. Through ample research and observation, he created a plan to make brands unstoppable. He provides the tools needed to really take your brand full-throttle through a series of assessments.

3. The Purpose Advantage: How to Unlock New Ways of Doing Business by Jeff Fromm 

Every brand has a purpose. But how do you actually measure whether your brand’s purpose gives you an advantage over your competitors? The Purpose Advantage aims to transform your brand’s purpose into a competitive advantage. The book offers insightful tips from some well-established CEOs, a workshop section to get your brand where you want it, and so much more. 

4. Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen by Rita McGrath 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could predict change before it happens? Columbia University Business School professor Rita McGrath says that if you observe carefully, it’s possible. In Seeing Around Corners, she helps you identify early signs of change so you can successfully capture opportunity by taking action before it’s too late.

5. Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal 

The first step in becoming more strategic is focusing your attention on the right things. (Hint: It’s not your smartphone.) In Indistractable, Nir Eyal provides a framework that will help you identify what matters most to you and use that knowledge to align your intentions and actions.

6. Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing: Separate Fact from Fiction and Drive Growth by Atul Minocha 

You were told social media marketing would skyrocket your sales with minimal investment. Influencers were supposed to have Gen Zers beating a path to your door. They didn’t. In Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing, Atul Minocha, a partner at Chief Outsiders, explains the difference between “Big-M” and “Small-M” marketing. Where mere marketing tactics fail to deliver, Minocha’s strategy-based approach provides the insight you need to get real results from your marketing dollars.

7. Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt

It isn’t that hard to develop good strategy, asserts UCLA Anderson School of Management professor Richard Rumelt. But what’s incredibly hard is strategy execution, which is often subject to inertia, bureaucracy, second-guessing, political pressure, and more. In this lively guide, Rumelt lays out principles that will help readers get better at both coming up with and delivering on good strategy.

8. Cyber War…and Peace: Building Digital Trust Today with History as Our Guide by Nicholas Shevelyov

There’s no surer path to big-picture thinking than the lessons of history. When Nick Shevelyov was a child living in Russia, his father was detained by the KGB. The experience taught him that information can be used against you, and it steered him toward his career in digital risk management. In Cyber War…and Peace, Shevelyov explores history, strategy, and the digital world to help business leaders get their arms around cybersecurity and stay one step ahead of calamity.

Agility is important, but you can’t succeed by being reactive all the time. By developing your long-term thinking ability, you’ll ensure you’re focused on the right goals–and be more likely to achieve them. These eight books can help you get there.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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