13 Best Books on Strategic Thinking

Best Books on Strategic ThinkingS

trategic thinking – or the ability to think of strategies for achieving one’s goals – is a highly desired skill in today’s society. Strategic thinkers are always able to accomplish tasks more efficiently, be it at work or school. The best way to develop your strategic thinking skills is by reading books on the topic. There are many books on strategic thinking that can help you improve your skills, but here are some of the best books on strategic thinking that have been written over the years.

Best Books on Strategic Thinking: THE LIST

1. Strategic Thinking | By Simon Wootton and Terry Horne

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Strategic Thinking: A Step-by-Step Approach to Strategy and Leadership, now in its third edition, takes you step by step through sound strategic thinking by setting out the questions to ask. In the process of answering these questions and thinking through the important issues that they raise, you will learn how to formulate strategies and write clear and concise strategic plans.

With new online material to support each step and help strengthen your ability to predict future changes, as well as a new section covering key aspects of leadership and neuroscience, this practical book will enable you to:

gain a deeper understanding of your market;

forecast where your organization is heading;

think critically about proposals;

write an effective strategic plan

Also including prompt sheets, objectives, action plans and useful summaries, this fully updated third edition is a must-have for all practicing managers and business students.

Online supporting resources for this book include downloadable templates including taking strategics decisions, creating strategic knowledge and assessing strategic ability.

2. How to Think Strategically | By Greg Githens

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How to Think Strategically is the ideal primer for those who want to develop their mental acumen and make strategic impact. This book will help you understand what it means to “be strategic” and how to craft strategy that is effective, powerful, and clever. A competent strategic thinker tolerates ambiguity, notices weak signals, defines the core challenge facing the organization, and designs effective responses with a winning strategic logic.

How to Think Strategically provides numerous real-world examples of individual strategic thinkers in action describing how they constructed a winning strategic logic. Through these examples, you’ll learn useful lessons that can be applied in any organization and in your personal life. This book will show you how to:

  • Internalize the 20 microskills of strategic thinking
  • Develop your personal brand as a competent strategic thinker
  • Pose high-quality questions that spark strategic insights
  • Write a concise one-page statement strategy, with five essential concepts that will help you distinguish effective strategy from a list of goals
  • Design strategy that is clever and powerful
  • Recognize and mitigate blind spots and decision traps
  • Distinguish strategic thinking from operational thinking and appropriately apply each
  • Overcome the excuse of “I’m too busy to be strategic”
  • Recognize and exploit the four X-factors of strategic thinking: Drive, Insight, Chance, and Emergence
  • Practice extra-ordinary leadership to confront issues and leap into an unknown future
  • Improve conversations with other strategists

The author brings a unique perspective that reflects years of experience as a corporate manager, educator, strategy consultant, facilitator, executive leadership coach, and board member. He writes with an engaging style that unpacks the broader concepts into easy-to-remember nuggets. Anyone can improve their strategic thinking if they know where to focus their attention. This book will be an indispensable guide for anyone interested in developing their personal brand.

3. Thinking Strategically | By Avinash Dixit

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The international bestseller―don’t compete without it!

A major bestseller in Japan, Financial Times Top Ten book of the year, Book-of-the-Month Club bestseller, and required reading at the best business schools, Thinking Strategically is a crash course in outmaneuvering any rival. This entertaining guide builds on scores of case studies taken from business, sports, the movies, politics, and gambling. It outlines the basics of good strategy making and then shows how you can apply them in any area of your life.

4. Leading with Strategic Thinking | By Aaron Olson and Keith Simerson

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Be a more effective leader with strategic thinking.

Leading with Strategic Thinking reveals what effective leaders do differently. Eschewing the one-size-fits-all leadership model, this helpful guide outlines four general leadership types and demonstrates how each type achieves success – whether through personal vision, structured process, collaboration, or empowering others. The authors identify the actions and skills that distinguish strategic leadership, drawn from interviews and focus groups with over 300 leaders from around the world. Examples and case studies illustrate these concepts in action, and the provided reference materials steer listeners toward more advanced information on this important topic.

The disruptive forces of technology and globalization raise new challenges for leaders. This book is a manual that will help executives and aspiring leaders harness these forces and address the two central questions of strategic leadership:

  • How do the best leaders develop their strategy?
  • How do effective leaders drive strategic change?

Becoming a strategic leader isn’t about mimicking an icon. The most effective leaders seize opportunity in a way that consciously integrates environmental requirements, stakeholder expectations, and personal ability. Leading with Strategic Thinking shows what these leaders do and gives anyone the tools to be a more strategic leader.

5. The Decision Book | By Mikael Krogerus

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Most of us face the same questions every day: What do I want? How can I get it? How can I live more happily and work more efficiently?

Whether you’re a chronic second-guesser or just eager for new ways to look at your world, Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler will teach you how to improve your understanding of the dilemmas you face and how to make better decisions every day.

Taught in MBA courses and elsewhere, The Decision Book contains classics like the Swiss cheese model for reviewing mistakes and the personal performance model for testing whether or not to switch jobs.

This revised edition includes a model for identifying cognitive biases and the expectation model to help you choose a life partner. The Decision Book is the perfect reference to consult at any crossroads.

6. Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving | By Arnaud Chevallier

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Whether you are a student or a working professional, you can benefit from being better at solving the complex problems that come up in your life. Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving provides a general framework and the necessary tools to help you do so.

Based on his groundbreaking course at Rice University, engineer and former strategy consultant Arnaud Chevallier provides practical ways to develop problem solving skills, such as investigating complex questions with issue maps, using logic to promote creativity, leveraging analogical thinking to
approach unfamiliar problems, and managing diverse groups to foster innovation.

This book breaks down the resolution process into four steps: 1) frame the problem (identifying what needs to be done), 2) diagnose it (identifying why there is a problem, or why it hasn’t been solved yet), 3) identify and select potential solutions (identifying how to solve the problem), and 4)
implement and monitor the solution (resolving the problem, the ‘do’).

For each of these four steps – the what, why, how, and do – this book explains techniques that promotes success and demonstrates how to apply them on a case study and in additional examples. The featured case study guides you through the resolution process, illustrates how these concepts apply, and
creates a concrete image to facilitate recollection.

Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving is a tool kit that integrates knowledge based on both theoretical and empirical evidence from many disciplines, and explains it in accessible terms. As the book guides you through the various stages of solving complex problems, it also provides useful
templates so that you can easily apply these approaches to your own personal projects.

With this book, you don’t just learn about problem solving, but how to actually do it.

7. Strategic Thinking | By Frederick Betz

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Leadership and strategy are intricately connected–one of the primary responsibilities of leaders is to formulate strategy. In an organization, only the leader has the power to implement strategic change. Thus strategic thinking is a necessary and fundamental cognitive ability of a leader. Strategic thinking requires both an idealism (to imagine a better world) and a realism (to acquire the resources, skills and organization to get there). However, most organizations focus on short-term thinking for their employees and leave long-term strategy to the executives. But no high-level executive in any organization is fully knowledgeable about the details of operations. Thus for realistic strategy, there is a need for good top-down and bottom-up communication. When organizational communication is only top-down, high-level strategy can become only wishful thinking by the CEO. The purpose of proper strategic thinking is to eliminate wishful-thinking from organizational strategy. Strategic thinking is necessary at every level of an organization, not just at the top. This book uses actual histories of business successes and failures to illustrate theoretical concepts in strategic thinking.

8. HBR Guide to Thinking Strategically

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Bring strategy into your daily work.

It’s your responsibility as a manager to ensure that your work–and the work of your team–aligns with the overarching objectives of your organization. But when you’re faced with competing projects and limited time, it’s difficult to keep strategy front of mind. How do you keep your eye on the long term amid a sea of short-term demands?

The HBR Guide to Thinking Strategically provides practical advice and tips to help you see the big-picture perspective in every aspect of your daily work, from making decisions to setting team priorities to attacking your own to-do list.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Understand your organization’s strategy
  • Align your team around key objectives
  • Focus on the priorities that matter most
  • Spot trends in your company and in your industry
  • Consider future outcomes when making decisions
  • Manage trade-offs
  • Embrace a leadership mindset

9. Learning to Think Strategically | By Julia Sloan

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Strategic thinking has become a core competency for business leaders globally. Overused and under-defined, the term is often used interchangeably with other strategic management terms. This book delineates and defines strategic thinking as an advanced, conceptual cognitive capability, focusing on the nonlinear, divergent, a-rational, and informal nature of strategic thinking. This unique and practical book is an original primer of how successful strategists learn to think strategically.

In this fourth edition, the author offers an expanded definition of strategic thinking based on critical theory. This book highlights the role of informal learning, underscores the relevance of engaging in the arts, and has global application for those tasked with making strategy in this rapidly changing world. Sloan presents a previously unexamined account of the relationship between strategic thinking and the learning process involved-taking learning from the academic to the everyday. New features include an expanded list of learning methods to develop strategic thinking, a more extensive look at global cultural perspectives of strategic thinking, and additional scenarios and case vignettes.

10. Strategic Thinking | By Irene Duhaime

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There are many strategy books available in the marketplace for today’s student or business professional; most of them view strategy from the 10,000 foot level, while Strategic Thinking looks at this important business topic through a different lens. Written from the perspective of a manager, this book builds on theories of managerial and organizational cognition that have had a powerful influence on many business fields over the last two decades. As other books on business policy and strategy cover a broad range of topics, models, frameworks, and theories, the unique feature of this book is that it covers all this, but also focuses on how managers of business firms understand their business environments, assess and marshal their firms’ resources, and strive for advantage in the competitive marketplace. It examines the economic, structural, and managerial explanations for firm performance.

Offering professors and business people who are intrigued by the ideas introduced in Peter Senge’s books ways to apply those ideas and principles in the classroom and in the companies in which they work, the book puts managers front and center.

11. Strategic Thinking and Writing | By Michael Edmondson

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In today’s hyper-connected, dynamic, and ever changing global marketplace, storytelling is the new strategic imperative for organizations that want to achieve and sustain growth. The power of narrative, however, is built upon the foundation of strategic thinking and writing. As technology has democratized the power to share stories with the world, succeeding in today’s age of collaborative commerce demands that leaders on all levels develop and enhance the business competency of storytelling built on strategic thinking and writing in order to drive customer engagement, enhance business performance, and remain relevant.

Perhaps nowhere is the evidence of storytelling more prevalent than Amazon. In his 2018 annual letter, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos repeated his rule that PowerPoint is banned in executive meetings. Bezos replaced PowerPoint slides with a six page narrative that executives prepare. The start of each meeting involves attendees reading the six page narrative for 30 minutes followed by a discussion. Writing the six page memo requires research, time, and multiple revisions. The six page memo also requires one to think and write strategically.

That’s where this publication can help. Part one consists of three chapters that focus on examining the various definitions associated with thinking and the process of strategic thinking. Part two shifts the attention towards strategic writing and provides the reader with a step-by-step guide on how to create a clear, concise, and compelling six page memo.

12. Developing Strategic Thinking Skills | By Sorin Dumitrascu

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Strategy refers to the direction an organization or business unit takes to achieve its vision, mission, and goals. Organizational strategies include strategies at the corporate, business, and functional levels.
Strategic thinking is essential at all levels, including functional levels. It equips functional managers and departmental leaders to make long-term decisions that align with their organizations’ corporate and business strategies, encourages new ways of thinking, and overcomes the constraints associated with having limited information. In effect, it contributes to their success.
Strategic thinking has five main characteristics. It’s focused on an organization’s strategic vision, involves adopting a systems view, takes a long-term approach, involves being ready to take advantage of opportunities, and considers the past and present.
Traits of strategic thinkers typically include flexibility, openness, a positive outlook, curiosity, future focus, and an ability to identify connections and patterns. Common barriers to thinking strategically include unchallenged assumptions, knowledge that’s no longer relevant, reliance on what worked in the past, rigidity, linearity, closed-mindedness, and framing.
Anyone can develop the ability to think strategically and to do this you can carry out certain steps. Develop a clear vision by speaking to senior management and peers, collaborating with individuals, setting priorities, and making trade-offs.
To think strategically, you also have to think creatively. You can learn to do this by regularly challenging assumptions, visualizing possibilities, and participating in creative endeavors.
You also have to be prepared to deal with complexity. You need to adopt a big picture view of your organization, be able to recognize trends and patterns, and align your ideas with strategic objectives. You need to become aware of what’s going on across your organization and in its broader environment.
To think strategically and see the bigger picture, it’s important to understand both the external and internal contexts of your organization. You can use Porter’s model of five forces to help you understand and assess your organization’s external environment.
To understand the internal context in which you operate, you need to understand your organization’s strategic goals and direction, and how your department can align with these. You should also identify potential stakeholders, gather their input on potential actions, and ensure you consider the impact of your decisions on them.
A big-picture perspective enables you to create a mental model of the complete system of value creation within your organization. You can understand the value chain in terms of Porter’s primary and support activities.

13. Elevate | By Rich Horwath

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According to a study published in Chief Executive Magazine, the most valued skill in leaders today is strategic thinking. However, more than half of all companies say that strategic thinking is the skill their senior leaders most need to improve. Elevate provides leaders with a framework and toolkit for developing advanced strategic thinking capabilities. Unlike the majority of books that focus on strategy from a corporate perspective, Elevate gives the individual executive practical tools and techniques to help them become a truly strategic leader. The new framework that will enable leaders to finally integrate both strategy and innovation into a strategic approach that drives their profitable growth is the Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking:

  • 1. Coalesce: Fusing together insights to create an innovative business model
  • 2. Compete: Creating a system of strategy to achieve competitive advantage
  • 3. Champion: Leading others to think and act strategically to execute strategy

Every leader desperately wants to be strategic – their career depends on it. Elevate provides the roadmap to reach the strategic leadership summit.

14. Strategic Thinking and the New Science | By T. Irene Sanders

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The future is happening today, and the most successful organizations will be those that understand the dynamics of the “big picture” in which their decisions are being made. This book describes how to understand and influence that picture. Irene Sanders pioneered the application of chaos theory and complexity to strategic thinking — the most essential skill in today’s fast-paced business environment. Now, in this straightforward, easy-to-read book, she shows how the most up-to-date strategic thinking is done, and how you can begin using it in your enterprise.

Sanders’ original and practical approach moves far beyond traditional forecasting, futuring and scenario-building. The new science of chaos and complexity has shown scientists and business professionals alike the importance of looking at the world as a whole system, rather than as a collection of deterministic principles. Consequently, the human mind — through the integration of intuition and intellect — is now recognized as the only information processor capable of understanding the level of complexity in today’s global business environment. By engaging the mind’s eye through the use of visual thinking, Sanders shows you how to develop insight about the present and foresight about the future, thereby allowing you to see and influence the future as it is emerging. The new planning paradigm presented in Strategic Thinking and the New Science is nothing less than a transformation of the science of business.

For the first time in history, we have the knowledge, tools and techniques to develop visual thinking as the essential insight/foresight skill of the future. In addition to breakthroughs neuroscientists have made about brain-mind interactions, artists and psychologists are revealing the role of imagery in the creative process. And now, the new field of scientific visualization brings all of this information together with computer graphics to demonstrate how visual images can be used to engage our imaginations, enhance learning — and stimulate our deeper levels of awareness.

In this groundbreaking book, Sanders is the first to define the new model of strategic thinking — a model that is bound to revolutionize organizations of all types as they begin to see and influence their futures — today.

15. Lords of Strategy | By Walter Kiechel

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Imagine running a business without a strategy. It would be akin to driving blindfolded, to building a house without a blueprint. Yet just 50 years ago, business “plans” were mere extrapolations of the status quo, heedless of the forces that determine the fate of today’s organizations: competitive threats, customer needs, and business costs. The concept of strategy changed all that, paving the way for the creation of the modern corporate world.

The Lords of Strategy recounts the birth and evolution of strategy — arguably the most influential business paradigm of the past half century — and the trials and triumphs of the surprising disruptors who invented it. Principal among them were four men: Bruce Henderson, found of the Boston Consulting Group; Bill Bain, creator of Bain & Company; Fred Gluck, longtime managing director of McKinsey & Company; and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. Each was obsessed with pinpointing how companies achieve competitive advantage over others. This insider account reveals these industry’s pioneers as “idea junkies” – a new breed of intellectuals who wielded concepts as weapons for fighting business battles. Their relentless efforts to plumb the depths of competition exploded much of the prevailing wisdom, galvanized executives into action, and forced companies to understand themselves as never before.

An important book by one of management’s keenest observers, The Lords of Strategy provides listeners with a deeper understanding of the world they compete in and a sharper eye for what works — and what doesn’t — when forging strategy.

16. Compete Smarter, Not Harder | By William Putsis

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How to compete in the right space for greater profitability and growth

The Internet, mobile technology, the ubiquity of information and the availability of big data have dramatically increased the speed and impact of success and failure. Companies today know that they must be competitive, but precisely where, and more importantly how, to compete is not always easy to identify―until now. Compete Smarter, Not Harder explains how to prioritize market opportunities so that a company’s strengths in one area can be leveraged across multiple markets. Using cutting-edge academic research and extensive industry practice, author William Putsis outlines the strategic decisions needed to determine which space provides the best margins, overall profitability, and growth potential.

  • Details a step-by-step process for strategic prioritization, from strategic market selection to the tactics of execution, providing competitive advantage across markets
  • Written by Doctor William Putsis, a professor of marketing, economics, and business strategy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has consulted and led executive development efforts with leading companies throughout the world

Prioritize with conviction. Make absolutely sure that all of your hard work goes toward the right space.

17. Think to Win | By Paul Butler

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The proven plan for making strategic thinking part of any organization’s DNA to drive sustainable growth

In today’s ultra-competitive business world, the difference between success and failure lies in the ability to get every employee to think and behave like a strategist.

Think to Win helps business leaders expand strategic thinking out of the purview of “the elite few” and into the company culture as whole. It offers a simple, proven approach to analyzing and solving old or new challenges and provides a common language anyone at any level in the organization can understand.

18. Deep Dive | By Rich Horwath

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The inability to set good strategy can sink a company – and a leader’s career. A recent ”Wall Street Journal” study revealed that the number one most sought-after executive skill by organizations is strategic thinking, but few leaders have that skill set. In this book, Rich Horwath dissects the three most important elements of strategic thinking, breaks them down into simple and attainable skills, and shows readers how to apply them every day. He provides managers with a clear path to mastery of three disciplines: Acumen – generate critical insights through a step-by-step evaluation of the business and its environment; Allocation – focus limited resources of time, talent, and money; and, Action – implement a system to guarantee effective execution and communication of strategy throughout the organization. This book is based on research with senior executives from more than 150 companies and Horwath’s own experience as a professional strategist. Armed with the knowledge from this book, every reader can become an expert strategist and an invaluable member of his or her organization.

19. Strategic Focus | By Cecilia Lynch

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Too often leaders just don’t know where to start planning for the future of their business; they usually start with the familiar: internally, operationally and incrementally focused. This is the wrong place to start. From two decades-plus of leading successful custom consulting engagements for corporations, entrepreneurial business and non-profits, Cecilia Lynch, principal of Focused Momentum® and author of Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking is finally making it easy to lead strategy development with confidence. Strategic Focus is your first step in preparing your strategic thinking about the future with clarity. This new book demystifies how to think strategically about your business to enable you to craft a winning strategy with the outside-in approach. This book will guide you through a series of exercises that create a simple, straight-forward process to form the premise for the future success of your enterprise. You too can lead truly stimulating and important conversations that will result in a significant evolution and in marketplace momentum for your company. By the time you are done with Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking, you will be well-equipped and confident to facilitate strategy in your own business, with your team and/or with your board members.

Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Strategic Thinkings

The most successful organizations will be those that understand the dynamics of the “big picture” in which their decisions are being made. Sanders’ original and practical approach moves far beyond traditional forecasting, futuring, and scenario-building. By engaging the mind’s eye through the use of visual thinking, Sanders shows you how to develop insight about the present and foresight about the future, thereby allowing you to see and influence the future as it is emerging.

Happy reading!

Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.

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lanning is all about decisions. There are lots of them, they happen every day, and each one has the potential to affect the future in some way. We should be good at making good decisions and we can't always be good at that. Planning helps us get...

What are Some Types of Systems?

What are Some Types of Systems?

 system is a collection of parts that work together to achieve a common goal. Systems can be physical or open, probabilistic or deterministic, and man-made or natural systems. Best Books on Systems and Planning What is a system? The term ‘system’...