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Strategic Thinking Skills

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Strategic Thinking Skills

Strategic Thinking Skills

Course No.  5913
Course No.  5913
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Course Overview

About This Course

24 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

Strategic thinking is a powerful and invaluable skill, one that leads to greater chances of success in whatever professional and personal projects you're involved in. It involves setting goals, developing long-range plans, anticipating the unexpected, analyzing your environment, and even cooperating with your competitors.

The only catch: Strategic thinking doesn't come naturally. Because most of us are static thinkers who tend to make decisions only for today, strategic thinking skills have to be learned, cultivated, practiced, and applied.

Mastering the art and craft of strategic thinking can help you

  • plan more effectively with an eye for avoiding unpleasant surprises;
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Strategic thinking is a powerful and invaluable skill, one that leads to greater chances of success in whatever professional and personal projects you're involved in. It involves setting goals, developing long-range plans, anticipating the unexpected, analyzing your environment, and even cooperating with your competitors.

The only catch: Strategic thinking doesn't come naturally. Because most of us are static thinkers who tend to make decisions only for today, strategic thinking skills have to be learned, cultivated, practiced, and applied.

Mastering the art and craft of strategic thinking can help you

  • plan more effectively with an eye for avoiding unpleasant surprises;
  • impose a stronger sense of order on chaotic, disorderly projects and scenarios;
  • make savvier decisions and outsmart your competitors with greater confidence and ease; and
  • increase your productivity and satisfaction at work and at home.

And while the subject owes much to ideas and techniques developed in military situations, its applications go far beyond. With Strategic Thinking Skills, you'll get a simple and comprehensive guide to the skills, tactics, techniques, tools, case studies, and lessons behind this all-important process. Business consultant, former military intelligence officer, and award-winning Professor Stanley K. Ridgley of Drexel University has crafted these 24 lectures as an accessible way to engage with thinking that will help you think—and act—more strategically in business and in your own life, whether you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or you're preparing to embark on a new career path.

Explore the Strategic Thinker's Tool Box

Strategic thinking is a way of looking at the world with engagement and purpose in mind, and with a more solid understanding of the complex systems and environments of which you're a part. But what makes for successful strategic thinking?

"Successful strategy,"Professor Ridgley notes at the start of these lectures, "is dynamic, adaptive, and opportunistic. It depends upon the swift, bold, and crisp execution of tactics."

Strategic Thinking Skills is a veritable tool box for those interested in learning (or strengthening) their approach to strategy. These lectures are loosely organized around several key topics central to effective strategic thinking. Here are just three:

  • Principles of conflict: Throughout history, soldiers and scholars ranging from Sun Tzu to Napoleon have attempted to develop principles of conflict that tend to overlap in some surprising ways. You'll follow the development of strategic theory from its roots in great military campaigns to its modern applications in business, meeting some of the great minds who helped shape our understanding of strategic thinking.
  • Finding (and using) intelligence: You can't learn about strategic thinking without learning about competitive intelligence, which plays an increasingly important role in strategic thinking. Not only do effective strategic thinkers want to find out what the other side is doing, they want to mislead the other side about what they're doing. As you'll discover, intelligence and analysis provide a firm foundation on which you can build a sound strategic structure.
  • Tools of strategy and analysis: Strategic thinking equips you with a range of tools that can help you plan for and meet the future with greater confidence. Knowing how to wield tools—such as the five basic types of surprises— can aid your understanding of the forces that shape our future and can help you make sense of a rapidly changing world.

Learn How to Use Strategic Tools and Tricks

Central to Strategic Thinking Skills is Professor Ridgley's revealing look at the various tools and tricks that strategic thinkers have used throughout history to better approach problems and seek lasting solutions. Among those you'll learn how to use are

  • the indirect approach, a technique with its origins in military science that thwarts your opponent's expectations and offers you a much greater utility in achieving your objectives without approaching your opponent head-on;
  • the value chain, a method of strategic analysis that divides your team or organization into its value-producing activities so you can evaluate it and better inform yourself on its internal strengths and weaknesses;
  • the four actions framework, a strategy that consists of asking yourself four key questions to challenge your established logic and business structure in an effort to develop and implement a new value curve that will give you a stronger competitive advantage; and
  • the five basic behaviors of luck, a set of behaviors—including the hunching skill, the ratchet effect, and the pessimism paradox—that can greatly enhance the odds that you will fulfill your strategic plan.

Gain Invaluable Lessons from Historical Case Studies

Strategic Thinking Skills is filled with case studies from the realms of business, politics, military science, and even sports. Each case study that Professor Ridgley unpacks offers you invaluable lessons on approaching and practicing your own strategic thinking.

  • The Battle of the Bulge and the dangers of overreaching: One danger to strategic planning is overreach, in which an individual or group lacks the capabilities needed to carry out ambitious goals. Lasting more than a month, World War II's Battle of the Bulge was the result of bold German plans to blast through American and British forces in the Ardennes forest to gain strategic military and political objectives—despite lacking the manpower to accomplish this bold scenario. The result, as history shows, was a reverberating defeat that hastened the end of the war in Europe.
  • Polaroid, Kodak, and the importance of quick response: How fast a business responds to industry changes can be critical to business success—especially as the pace of change in many industries increases more than ever. Kodak and Polaroid were two iconic camera and film companies that dominated the industry until the 1980s but failed to recognize how fast the digital revolution and the subsequent change in the market were occurring. The tempo of the surprise caught them off guard, eventually sending both companies into bankruptcy.
  • The cold war and the power of cooperation: When the dangers and costs of miscommunication between two rivals become greater than any benefit derived from no cooperation, that lays the groundwork for mutually recognized and orchestrated cooperation that can benefit both sides. A familiar example of this is the "hot line"between Washington, DC, and Moscow that allowed the U.S. and Soviet governments to cooperate on some of the most dangerous issues threatening both nations—including all-out thermonuclear war.

Along the way, you'll get an intimate look at how some of history's greatest strategic thinkers, including Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Napoleon Bonaparte, Vince Lombardi, and Abraham Lincoln, approached situations, applied their knowledge and skills to setting long-term goals, and even dodged (and sometimes failed to dodge) common pitfalls in strategic thinking and planning.

Develop Your Strategic Personality

As an expert in global business policies, competitive intelligence, and advanced strategic business strategies, Professor Ridgley is the perfect instructor to guide you through this intriguing and undeniably fascinating subject. His skills at breaking down the complex parts of strategic theories, at revealing the individual steps of some of history's greatest strategic victories (and blunders), and at inspiring people to apply the principles and tools of strategic thinking to all aspects of their everyday lives are sure to impress you.

"It is our attitude toward events that determines how we deal with them,"he notes. "Developing a strategic personality is one way to cultivate an attitude capable of meeting those events. What you want to be five or ten years from now informs what you do today. It tells you how to move your pieces on the great chessboard of your life."

So transform the way you think about and approach the projects and challenges of the future—whether in your professional or your personal life—with Strategic Thinking Skills.

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24 Lectures
  • 1
    The World of Strategic Thinking
    Enter the fascinating world of strategic thinking. Start by learning some of the key terms and concepts you’ll encounter, with a focus on the differences between “strategy” and “tactics.” You’re also introduced to how strategic thinking works in business, politics, military combat, sports, and much more. x
  • 2
    The Origins and Relevance of Ancient Strategy
    To truly grasp strategic thinking, you must understand its origins and traditions. See how the writings and ideas of early strategists, including Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Hannibal, and Machiavelli, can provide you with modes of thinking and practical guidance you can use even today. x
  • 3
    The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking
    Follow along as strategic thinking develops in military engagements from the French Revolution to the close of World War I. You’ll examine the contributions of Napoleon Bonaparte (whose strategies of indirect approach and central positioning demonstrate the power of ideas over material resources), influential military theorists, and famous geopolitical thinkers. x
  • 4
    Modern Principles of Strategic Conflict
    Objective. Offensive. Maneuver. Unity of Command. Security. Professor Ridgley demystifies these and other principles of war in use by the U.S. military since the 1920s. Each of these principles goes beyond military action and can offer you vital guidelines for executing your professional and personal strategies against a sometimes hostile world. x
  • 5
    Geography—Know Your Terrain
    Delve into the influence of microgeography on your own decision making and discover how interacting with your physical space in situations of conflict and competition can make or break your chances of success. Case studies and examples in this lecture range from Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo to a simple chess match. x
  • 6
    Grand Strategists and Strategic Intent
    At the center of every great strategy is a vision—a strategic intent. Learn the importance of powerful strategic intents by studying what constitutes an effective vision, how figures such as John F. Kennedy have articulated them, and what happens when you fail to have a solid strategic intent. x
  • 7
    The Core and the Rise of Strategic Planning
    How do you actually plan an effective strategy? First, follow the development of formal strategic planning in the business realm after World War I. Then, Professor Ridgley walks you through his six-step strategic planning process that can better help you craft a successful strategy. x
  • 8
    Which Business Strategy? Fundamental Choices
    Learn the major ways that firms and people compete economically—and how these strategies can apply even to nonbusiness activities. You’ll contrast cost leadership (selling products at the lowest possible price and making profit on volume) with differentiation (providing something unique beyond low prices), and also consider a special form of hyperdifferentiation known as “focus.” x
  • 9
    Your Competitive Advantage—Find the Blue Ocean
    What is your unique selling proposition, and how do you develop it? How do you find your “blue ocean” and differentiate yourself in some meaningful way? Most important: How can thinking differently and taking risks actually help you stand apart from the pack in positive ways? Find the answers right here. x
  • 10
    Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
    Examine some of the powerful analytical tools that strategic thinkers use to make calculated and honest assessments of the world around them—and better understand their own capabilities. The four invaluable tools you’ll learn about in this lecture are PEST analysis, five forces analysis, value chain analysis, and the technique known as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT). x
  • 11
    Avoid the Pathologies of Execution
    Even with a superb strategy, the best-laid plans can go awry for many reasons. Here, Dr. Ridgley uses examples from military combat to illustrate some of the common causes of strategic failure. These include poor intelligence, overreach, and communication breakdown. x
  • 12
    Tactics of Combat as Problem-Solving Tools
    There is much to be learned from studying the major tactics of war—the frontal assault, the indirect approach, turning the flank, and rear area battle—beyond just winning battles. In each instance, you’ll start by exploring the technique’s military roots and then turn to its fascinating applications in the business world. x
  • 13
    Shock of the New—Inflection Points
    How do you navigate game-changing events and developments (strategic inflection points) that force you to radically readjust your strategy? Examine a range of case studies in business (such as the 1978 deregulation of the airline industry), politics (limiting a U.S. president’s term in office), military conflict (new weaponry introduced during the Crusades), and other areas. x
  • 14
    Surprise! Perils and Power of Strategic Deception
    Surprise is a valuable tool in strategic thinking. In this insightful lecture, discover the inner workings of powerful surprise tactics such as unexpected timing and creation of false expectations in opponents—and how these tactics have been used throughout history. Also, find out how you can apply them to conflict situations you may face. x
  • 15
    The Sources and Uses of Reliable Intelligence
    Investigate the role of intelligence collection in crafting a good strategy. First, consider what is (and isn’t) intelligence. Then, examine the intelligence cycle to learn how intelligence is produced and used. Finally, confront some major obstacles that thwart the use of intelligence. x
  • 16
    Move and Countermove—The Theory of Games
    Tap into the secrets of game theory. You’ll uncover how this recent field—and its classic games, including the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons—contribute to our understanding of how people reason and how to use this knowledge to best pursue strategy in your own games. x
  • 17
    The Evolution of Cooperation
    Does cooperation make sense, even under conditions of potential conflict when you’re trying to get ahead? How can it be used in strategies that maximize everyone’s welfare? Explore powerful military and business situations involving cooperation, from the Christmas truce in World War I to the alliance between AT&T and T-Mobile in 2011. x
  • 18
    When Strategy Breaks Down
    It’s important for any strategic thinker and planner to understand obstacles to strategy. Learn to cultivate a healthy skepticism by studying a phenomenon Dr. Ridgley calls “strategic masquerade”; looking at types of misalignments that can derail your strategies (such as groupthink); and increasing your awareness of the dangers of “strategic erosion.” x
  • 19
    Leverage Cognitive Psychology for Better Strategy
    Explore some ideas and theories of cognitive psychology that can help improve your decision making and avoid irrational thinking in strategic situations. You’ll learn how to dodge thinking traps by employing such techniques as historical comparisons and situational logic. x
  • 20
    Strategic Intuition and Creative Insight
    Research suggests that, under certain conditions, intuition and instinct (also known as coup d’oeil) can be effective in making decisions. Take a closer look at several examples of strategic intuition in action (including a critical Civil War battle) and learn seven easy steps for helping you use intuitive insights to tackle problems. x
  • 21
    From Systemic Problems to Systemic Solutions
    Systemic problems, which arise repeatedly because of processes already in place, are a hurdle to more effective strategic thinking and planning. Here, analyze the nature and structure of systemic problems from the vantage point of a strategic thinker—and learn some definitive ways to fix them. x
  • 22
    Seize the Future with Scenario Analysis
    Perfect information that allows us to strategically plan around the uncertainties of the future is impossible—but there are tools that can help you better grapple with and manage the future. Professor Ridgley guides you through the steps of scenario planning and shows you ways to no longer fear the unexpected. x
  • 23
    The Correlation of Forces, Luck, and Culture
    The correlation of forces; luck; the four dimensions of culture—three powerful concepts you can harness to your strategic thinking needs, endow yourself with potent analytical power, and dramatically increase your chances of achieving strategic success. Learn all about them here. x
  • 24
    Strategic Thinking as a Way of Life
    Revisit the importance of strategic thinking at work and at home. Why should you think strategically? How can you teach yourself to see larger patterns in the world around you? What will the future of strategic thinking look like? x

Lecture Titles

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Stanley K. Ridgley
Ph.D. Stanley K. Ridgley
Drexel University
Dr. Stanley K. Ridgley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business. He holds an M.A. in Political Science from Duke University, an M.B.A. in International Business from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from Duke. Professor Ridgley teaches courses on global business policies, international business fundamentals, competitive intelligence, strategic management and entrepreneurship, and advanced strategic business presentations. While teaching at Temple University, he received the Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership. Professor Ridgley has lectured and presented widely in the United States, Russia, India, France, Colombia, and Singapore. A presentation coach for teams of business students, he coached the winning team for Target Corporation's annual Business Case Competition at Temple University in 2009 and 2010 and coached an Indian M.B.A. team's winning presentation in the All India Management Association's 2009 National Competition for Young Managers. His book, The Complete Guide to Business School Presentations: What your professors don't tell you...what you absolutely must know will be published in 2012 by Anthem Press. Professor Ridgley is a former military intelligence officer for the U.S. Army and served five years in West Berlin and near the Czech-German border, where he received the George S. Patton Award for Leadership from the 7th Army NCO Academy.
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Reviews

Rated 4.2 out of 5 by 45 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent comprehensive overview! This was an excellent course that I highly recommend. Of the few TC business courses aimed at decision making (Game Theory, The Hidden Factor, The Art of Critical Decision making) this was the least mathematical but the most comprehensive, (and also the most entertaining). The professor is well informed, enthusiastic, and an excellent teacher. Plenty of real life examples from business, military, and sports are provided to complement the salient points of each lecture. There's virtually never a dull moment in this course. The course has many strong points. It not only stressed strategy, but also the tactical component of implementing strategy. A few of the lectures were simply stellar. The lecture on Game Theory summarized all the pertinent points I took away from the entire Game Theory course! There were also great lectures on environmental analysis, cooperation, and even the psychological aspects of decsion making. A few words of caution: (1) The course overview occurs early on in lecture 7, and subsequent lectures elaborate on the outline set forth in this lecture. Since the professor does not 'wrap up' the course with a summary lecture, lecture 7 is of great importance in providing the contexual framework of the course. I realized this on the second listen (which I highly recommend). (2) The first 6 lectures seem to recount one historical battle after another. They are there to emphasize the importance of tactics in the implementation of any strategy. Though entertaining, they do tend to drag. The course really begins at lecture 7, and never looks back! I really enjoyed this course. It is one of TC's better productions, and one that I will return to over and over again to help me both in my career and personal life. October 25, 2012
Rated 4 out of 5 by Good, but ... A sound, thorough treatment of the topic, crisply delivered. My only quibble is the constant reference to American football terminology: not everyone understands, nor is interested in, this sport, particularly those outside the US! December 15, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent course! His presentation is clear, and helps me understand better other books I've studied.! Can't wait to get the course on Masters of war, histories greatest strategic thinkers. November 10, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Strategic Thinking Skills course review Strategic Thinking Skills course review: In some 20 great courses I have taken, the Strategic Thinking Skills course is the only one for which I requested a transcript as a reference. (517 pages provide text references below). For some time I have been in search of a strategic planning course that would make sense to a nonprofit audience that seemed to substitute the latest planning gadget for strategic planning. So I’m going with Professor Stanley Ridgley’s course because I have found nothing better to cover the needed strategic skills thinking leading to results so far; unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a cookbook that properly addresses the fundamental approach to the development of strategy and tactics driven by current technology. Call this the STT model. Suggestions appreciated. I bought about 10 copies of the course for our Board of Directors and Advisory Council. Some read, some absorbed; some complained about the military emphasis. Let me take that on here. My background is that of a Colonel, United States Marine Corps, retired. An early task in basic training is to make every Marine a riflemen, (page 131); Good strategy? Shooters are taught the need to adjust the path of the bullet for elevation, range, windage, gravity drop, etc.; this is called the “DOPE” by rifle range coaches. The tactic using the latest rifle technology is to let a bullet fly at long range. Strategy story short - from the pointy end of the rifle, BOOM: out pops a free Nation. So all citizens, especially nonmilitary, are free to roam about a free country, ignore or even protest the military-industrial complex, even flag- burning. In the end a free country is what we fight for. Professor Ridgley addresses the great strategists’concerns regarding the interrelationships in the STT model: Page 58 - a great strategic mind approaches tactical [and technical?] problems and ways their solution into a coherent whole; Page 62 – Jomni brought geometric precision to strategy and tactics; Page 78 – military technology and advanced since the end of the first world war but military establishments generally failed to recognize new technologies would transform the battlefield of the next war. Consider Strategy, Tactics, Technology (STT) as an ever changing evolution, sometimes revolution, as a spinning wheel. War fighting is never this simple, right? However note the influence of U AV technology in the past 15 years and how it has driven new tactics and strategy to better address the threat. Same for the V-22! As we frequently say in the Marine Corps: “nobody likes to fight but somebody has to know how.” Here arises a conundrum: Dismissing the contrast between a firefight and boardroom potshots: what difference is there in using the STT model to take care of business? All business! Apple? Google? Given all this my findings of the strategic thinking skills course, is that there are lots of nuggets to mine, for example lecture eight – STT applications for “differentiation or cost leadership” in an organization. No pain, no gain! Pop quiz: Do US Marines do both? One criticism I would offer: Professor Ridgley ought to add a little more “Drucker” to the strategic thinking skills mix; there is only one Drucker entry in the bibliography: The Effective Executive. Kudos! Professor Ridgley does a sneak attack on combining strategy and management to integrate the Drucker approach, on page 146 of the transcript. Here we see another form of the STT model. “…the final and highest phase was strategic management itself; here we aim to weld strategic planning and management into a single process in pursuit of that loadstone – the linking of strategy conception with execution [tactics using current technology]. This means diffusing the ability to think strategically throughout the entire organization a worthy goal”. Sounds like a Marine riflemen to me. Drucker is heavy into the MANAGEMENT word; however what Drucker is really pushing, along with Professor Ridgley, is LEADERSHIP. Strategic thinking skills are found here. Respectfully Submitted, Colonel of Retired Marines Semper Fidelis! PS: Would have preferred to amplify the ratings with 4.5 stars in more than one case reflecting that there is always room for improvement; however one is perforced to pick the integers. November 10, 2014
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