In a recent survey involving nearly 10,000 graduating MBA students, over 100 business schools, and over 600 company recruiters, an interesting point arose involving strategic thinking. When the recruiters were asked about the hardest skills to find in new MBA graduates, 47.3% identified strategic thinking (Francesca Levy and Cristina Lindblad, eds. “MBA Confidential: What the Students Revealed” Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/17/14–11/23/14, p. 50).
Initially, that statistic might shock us. However, upon reflection, it really should not for several reasons:
Experience. Just because a person knows and understands the language and tools of business does not automatically mean that strategic thinking has been mastered. Much strategy derives from another school named TSHK (The School of Hard Knocks). If you are paying attention to your growing experience daily, then your ability to think strategically should to some extent be improving. Many MBA students simply have not yet spent enough time in TSHK to refine their strategic thinking.
Training And Education. Most training and education focuses on the history, nomenclature, tools, conventions, models, processes, and metrics of the business. It is rare to find training and education content that drills down to the core competency of strategic thinking. Additionally, even if it does, not every student will assemble the discipline to internalize strategic thinking principles and practices.
Aptitude. Let’s face it. Not every businessperson has the aptitude for strategic thinking. That does not mean that the professional world has no place for them. It just means that not everyone is good at everything. For the businessperson honest enough to recognize his or her limitations, the best course of action is to collaborate with others who are strong strategic thinkers. This will enable the businessperson to compensate for that weakness.
Universal Truth. Coming up short in strategic thinking is not exclusive to the MBA degree. Regardless of the academic discipline, strategic thinking is simply not an overriding intensive subject in the curriculum. Too many other facets of the subject matter rightfully demand their attention. Strategic thinking tends to be viewed as a higher level, refined aspect of study that every student understands needs to be aggressively pursued. The unwritten expectation is that every serious student will recognize this opportunity and make it a subsequent ongoing activity.
MBA or not, strategic thinking is something that we can all afford to pursue.