Guess what, Strategic thinkers are always….wait for it….thinking! And they aren’t thinking about what their competition did (or didn’t do). Instead they think about ways to be in front of the pack and ultimately more successful. Sometimes that means identifying the need for a new product or maybe a new delivery channel like drones. But it never means just following their competition and doing the same thing.

Owners, CEO’s and even those in middle management crave strategic thinkers on their teams. In fact, if you truly want to differentiate yourself from your peers, little can increase your stock more than developing this ability. This trait is so desired that you may have even received feedback from a supervisor that you should work to develop the skill-set. I know it seems kind of squishy and easier said than done right?!?

Admittedly there are many keys to becoming a strategic thinker. But one of the biggest involves the ability to ask questions that push thought past the present and into the future. You see any “Average Joe” can ask questions that provide the answers for today or even tomorrow. But “Superstar Strategic” thinkers seem to possess the uncanny ability to ask questions that earn them the label of “Visionaries.”

And the great news is that it’s really not that difficult. Check out the graphic below to see some examples of “Average Joe” questions (that you might have asked just yesterday!) vs. those that could propel you to the corner office and the C-Suite.

“Average Joe” Questions “Superstar Strategic” Questions When do you need this? Why are we doing this?What do we do that isn’t necessary?

Why do we do it this way? What is the budget? Why are people willing to pay for this good/service?If money wasn’t a factor what would we do differently?

What would it take to reduce our price to market? What is the competition doing? What product do people want that isn’t available?How can we make it easier/quicker to use our product?

What unique product/service can we offer that our competitors don’t?

Where are we better than our competition and can we do more of it? How do our sales look? What would it take to triple our sales within 12 months?Where do our results not match our investment? (Time or Money)

How can we increase our profitability? Who is our target market? What do our customers want that no one offers them?How can we attract Millennials to our product/service?

What markets should we be in that we aren’t now?

What will our customers expect in 2 years and 5 years? Do you think it will work? What was our biggest mistake and why didn’t it work?What are we doing today that won’t be needed/desired in 2 years?

What was our biggest success and why did it work? Can we buy software for this? What technology should we leverage to operate more efficiently?What opportunities does technology present that we aren’t using?

Take a look at the list on the left again and I think you’ll see that “Average Joe” questions really do focus on the present. And while the answers certainly provide direction for today, they do little to help your company long-term. A key to becoming that “Superstar Strategic” thinker that everyone desires is to move your questions (and efforts!) to the future like those shown on the right.

While asking great questions can help you begin to think more strategically, there is admittedly more to consider on the topic. If you want to learn more, check out the links below:

Oh and don’t worry…you don’t necessarily need to have all the answers to the questions you pose. There can be great value in simply driving these conversations with your peers.

I’d love to hear from you…are you an “Average Joe” or a “Superstar Strategic” thinker?