Strategic Thinking Skills

Course No. 5913
Professor Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D.
Drexel University
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Course No. 5913
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Course Overview

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
 |  30 minutes each
  • 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

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Your professor

Stanley K. Ridgley

About Your Professor

Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D.
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,...
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Reviews

Strategic Thinking Skills is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 72.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An engaging course on the subject of strategy An excellent course that uses great illustrations to lead us through a very complete understanding of strategy and key skills. The source material cited is excellent and the student is advised to research this material., e.g. Michael Porter on Competitiveness. The subject of strategy is taught using lessons from history, specifically military history. As Dr. Ridgely effectively illustrates the greatest strategists were involved in life and death conflicts and from these struggles emerged new and effective ways of thinking about strategy. Key business leaders and their contributions are also presented. In summary, this is a very complete and engaging course. To this point, I never thought I would say that I would regret coming to the end of an academic course. Finishing this course was like coming to the end of a great read, a sense of a accomplishment but also regret as you want more! I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2018-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview I wish I had taken this course years ago. It would have helped my career in planning and as a supervisor. It brilliantly brings out the fundamentals to consider in strategic thinking.
Date published: 2018-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Grand insight This is truly an outstanding professor and course. My background includes being a former U. S. Navy officer, MBA, and being the CIO of several New York Stock Exchange listed companies. I have myself taught Strategic Thinking at a major university. The presentation by the presenter is one of the best I've observed in any venue. The material while in parts is a review, many new aspects are presented with such energy and graphical art to be revealing in new insights. This is the best of the best.
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It appears to be a little dated....maybe recorded in the mid '90's. I have watched other Great Courses and found them to be more interesting than this course.
Date published: 2017-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best Great Courses This is one of the best Great Courses I have listened to. Professor Ridgley is masterful, and is a great teacher, who speaks at a good pace, very clearly and engagingly . He introduces topics by using great examples that we can all relate to, and In found his last lecture that sums things up particularly useful. You won't regret listening to this one. Well done!
Date published: 2017-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Provides a great insight. Providing good examples from business and the military, the course was informative without being becoming buried in jargon or detail.
Date published: 2017-05-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Overloaded with military themes The instructor excessively uses overdrawn military analogies instead of more business examples/explanations...
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I can't give you a "real" evaluation as I haven't begun to view the lessons yet. However, I will give it the highest rating based upon the quality of other courses I have purchased from you.
Date published: 2017-03-10
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