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Achieving Distinct Relevance with Strategic Thinking

David Lee

Facilitator | The Flame Centre

Achieving distinct relevance with strategic thinking

Why Strategic Thinking?

Since gaining independence, Singapore has not only survived but achieved extraordinary success. In just five decades, we've transitioned from a third-world nation to a first-world standard of living. By all social and economic metrics, Singapore stands as one of the most prosperous, vibrant, and safe societies globally. This exceptionalism can be attributed to our capacity for strategic thinking, the allocation of resources to critical areas, and the proactive formulation of plans and policies to exploit emerging opportunities.

Former Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan, in his article "The Sovereignty of a Small State", argues that a small state like Singapore is inherently inconsequential in the international system. Relevance must be consciously created and sustained, as it cannot be taken for granted. Singapore, a nation born without a significant economic hinterland or natural resources and situated in a tumultuous region, can only thrive by offering unique value to the rest of the world, necessitating a commitment to exceptionalism.

As a small state with limited resources, Singapore's options for agency are naturally constrained. It becomes imperative for us, our enterprises, and companies to have clear thinking that guides us to pursue only those opportunities strategically aligned with our long-term vision. Our margin for error is smaller compared to larger states, leaving us with little room for a second chance.

Simultaneously, our world is increasingly fragmented, turbulent, uncertain, and complex. To thrive in this environment, it is crucial that we acquire strategic thinking skills enabling us to objectively identify key future trends, formulate forward-looking policies, and have the courage to implement them to safeguard our future.

Play video: What is DPI strategic thinking? What is distinct relevance?

What is Strategic Thinking?

Strategic thinking is the cognitive process of formulating, articulating, and communicating a coherent vision and explicit strategy for an organization. It is an intentional and rational thought process focused on analyzing strategic variables that influence sustainable organizational growth. This process requires mastery of two key skills:

  • Anticipating future trends and their implications.

  • Understanding an organization's strategic capabilities that can be leveraged.

Unlike strategic planning, which involves concrete steps and actions, strategic thinking occurs within the minds of CEOs, business owners, and leaders. However, leaders often find themselves consumed by immediate problems, losing the fresh thinking that led to their organization's initial success. They become entrenched in the status quo, inhibiting their ability to perceive new threats and opportunities.

Hence, a deliberate and structured thinking process is needed to break leaders free from this natural tendency. This process enables leaders to develop a vision and strategy that empowers them to shape their destiny rather than being dictated by competitive forces.

Why Flame/ DPI’s Strategic Thinking Process?

Our Strategic Thinking Process offers four key advantages to help organizations overcome obstacles hindering their quest for distinct relevance and sustainable growth.

1. Alignment

The primary challenge in implementing a coherent strategy isn't a lack of vision among leaders but their inability to clearly and coherently articulate that vision, enabling the leadership team to collectively translate it into a specific and actionable profile. People cannot execute a strategy they are unaware of or do not understand.

The DPI strategic thinking process offers a platform for the leadership team to collaborate in formulating and implementing a coherent strategy. It aligns them, fosters a shared understanding of the situation, and enables them to synchronize efforts toward achieving a common vision.

2. Ownership

When organizations seek to formulate a new strategy, they often turn to external expert consultants for assistance. However, this approach frequently leads to a "me-too" strategy that imitates recommendations from other organizations. Without a distinctive strategy tailored to leverage the unique strategic capabilities of your organization, achieving supremacy becomes challenging without expending excessive effort and resources. Moreover, strategies not developed internally typically lack ownership during implementation. People are less committed to executing a strategy they did not help create.

DPI, on the other hand, believes that the people within your organization are best positioned to determine the future direction of your organization. Instead of dictating what to do, the DPI strategic thinking process empowers your people and leadership team to think critically, cohesively, and creatively. Since the strategy is developed by your own people for your organization, it naturally becomes their ownership. This serves as a strong source of motivation and commitment, inspiring them to take initiative, overcome unforeseen challenges, and work towards the successful implementation of the strategy.

3. Focus

Many strategies fail from the outset because they either lack specificity or attempt to achieve too much. As the saying goes, "Jack of all trades, master of none." Most organizations operate with limited resources, so a successful strategy must provide clear direction on strategically allocating these resources to areas that matter and define how and which opportunities to pursue.

The DPI structured thinking process assists organizations in identifying the critical component in their value chain that should serve as their driving force. This clarity guides resource allocation, enabling the development of key strategic capabilities that lead to a distinctive and sustainable comparative advantage, positioning the organization for supremacy over competitors.

4. Discipline

Regardless of how well-crafted a strategy may be, its effectiveness hinges on successful implementation. Many strategies fail due to a lack of discipline and structure during implementation. This failure often stems from an inability to identify the consequences and implications of implementation issues or getting sidetracked by daily operational concerns. In other words, organizations often become trapped in the current reality, failing to bridge the gap between their desired future and their current state.

The DPI strategic thinking process goes beyond assisting organizations in formulating a coherent future profile. It establishes a structured process that guides organizations in identifying critical issues requiring attention and steadfastly pursuing solutions. This approach empowers organizations to attain supremacy and secure their desired future.

Flame/ DPI Partnership: Flame Centre and DPI have joined forces to offer strategic thinking facilitation and consulting. With over 40 years of experience working with more than 300 organizations in the Asia Pacific region, DPI has helped organizations enhance profitability and achieve sustained growth.


How clear and distinctive is your current strategy?

What are some key considerations?

Download our time-tested strategy checklist to get you started.

Learn more about the DPI strategic thinking process.


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