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
 |  Average 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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Strategic Thinking Skills is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 80.
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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must have for success There are definitely two different perspectives on how people perceive life: they either perceive life as an external master of their destiny or the bargain with life on their own terms. I learned about the course a couple of months before and from that moment my life changed drastically and forever. It's just unbelievable how such a simple mindset can change your entire life, but I want to be more specific here. I used to do the work I didn't really enjoy, it promised a lot of material benefits, but it was not really fulfilling. I was afraid to change things: what if i fail? I don't really like it and I devoted a lot of my free time to another subject of business. But what if I overestimated my abilities and will end up without any work? Sound strategy sorted things out to me. I don't count on faith anymore, and I even see that this simple 30 hours course can and actually does replace an ENTIRE MBA! It may sound to grandiose, but honestly there is a MBA guy that I'm managing at the moment because of that bigger picture perspective of things. The course is followed-up by the lecture with probably the best suggested reads I ever stumbled upon. I love reading, but I do not like to waste my time on things that don't really get me deeper understanding of the subject. The recommended reads in the Course Guidebook are just golden. All of the books are just golden and what is more important, they are segmented by chapters so I can go in depth on the material that I really want and, honestly I'm getting smarter page after page. But it didn't stop just on me. That vision of the future, where we clearly understand who we are, what we are doing, what threatens us, and how are we going to win help and to help a lot of people around me. I shared this ideas with my family to help them get to the new level in their family business, which they did and are still doing. I shared this approach with my friends in NGO who are struggling for a better future for my country. I shared this approach with my coworkers and management on my new workplace, and they can not believe I'm that smart :) So, if you still think that course is not worth it, you probably got that MBA degree for $ 50k + :)
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Title is Misleading First the title of this course is misleading and entitled Critical Thinking Skills ... when it definitely is strategic thinking. However, I think I would have preferred a course on systems thinking. You'll learn some general ideas about strategic think from viewpoint of business strategies, military strategies, problems with strategies, how to develop a strategy, etc. But the points are all rather general and not as useful as I'd like. However, there is another Great Course entitled Masters of War which generally talks about strategic visions. In my opinion this course really covered that topic and did a better job of doing so. If you want to know about business strategy or systems thinking, then this is probably not the course for you. If you like war strategy then this course is great.
Date published: 2016-10-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from 80% Fluff I was really hoping to learn some innovative strategic thinking skills and came away very disappointed. There is some valuable content in there but that could have been covered in 1/5 the time. Most of this course is fluff. The professor is a very skilled presenter and he made a valiant effort to make this course useful to normal professionals. However, I feel like most of the concepts in here are very abstract or so generalized they could be in fortune cookies. i.e. if things aren't working, try a different approach. Brilliant!
Date published: 2016-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life changing skills The course begins very slowly and may seem tedious for the first couple of lectures. The professor seems to state the obvious. But then it becomes very much more fast-paced. The professor uses case studies of military and business strategies and applies them well to ordinary life scenarios. I especially like the body language that the professor uses to make his points. There is much in the course that contradicts widely accepted beliefs--such as the value in "shaking things up"--but the professor proves his points. This is an extremely valuable course that complements _The Creative Thinker's Toolkit_ but does not repeat or conflict with those ideas. The latter course concentrates on imagining a course of action and this one shows how to implement a course of action--and the pitfalls to watch out for. This is one of the very best courses of The Teaching Company.
Date published: 2016-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strategic Thinking Skills / Professor S.K. Ridgley I find myself finding a strategy for all parts of my life now and it is working. This course could be a prerequisite for ALL and ANY of The Great Courses. You do not need to understand gardening to be a great student nor the human body to be a great writer. You offer courses in all these subjects. Even maybe the most important courses, the courses of the mind; memory, cognitive thinking, creative thinking, critical thinking. All of these require a successful strategy to achieve that greatness. This book has truly changed my life. Something I thought I would never say outside the realm of spiritual books. I am finding myself becoming more efficient and effective in all the dimensions of my life I apply strategy .I accept nothing less from myself now and have a different outlook on life. I have thrown nearly all the self improvement books away and plan on not purchasing any more. With a successful strategy, all is in my reach. This course is The Way.
Date published: 2016-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course in Strategies of Life & Business Dr. Ridgley is outstanding in his grasp of the relationship between strategy on the battlefield and the application of the same techniques to business! Many of his strategy methods such as "The Indirect Approach" and the "Turning of the Flank" are obviously based in a war environment but can provide tremendous value in the business world. The professor's discussion on the SWOT Analysis is particularly useful in many challenging environments #i.e., business, personal, investment, etc.#. Overall, this course was helpful in providing me the guidance and direction to strengthening my ability to think strategically. Highly recommend this course to anyone who desires a deeper, yet practical, discussion on the subject.
Date published: 2015-09-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The title is misleading I was very excited to purchase this course as I am a professional presenter and speak on related topics. But after the first six lectures, I was beginning to wonder when Professor Ridgley was going to "get to the point." This course should be more accurately titled as a history course, not a "how to" with practical application. As I scanned the reviews, I found myself agreeing with the minority I suppose, as the emphasis was primarily and overly placed on military history, and the history of war tactics with scant connection to current civilians in business that my clients would find relevant. Questions in my mind kept emerging, "Where's the practical application for today's civilian/non-military entrepreneur?" How can I apply what these military leaders did to every day business affairs--and where are those specific examples?" "Show me how Napoleon's tactics work in today's environment." I felt he didn't make that connection very well, if at all. Typically when a presenter tells a historical vignette to illustrate a point, there is some follow-up after the story to show how it is relevant; I waited anxiously after each story for that to come--it never did. Instead, he lightly touched on it in abstract theory, then moved on to the next story. It was frustrating to listen to. I suppose some in the academic world or military would see a connect, but I felt the generalities put forth deserved more examples than just saying, "...we need to be more strategic in dealing with our competitors..." Okay, that's fine, but how? Client interaction for me is not donning fatigues with an AK47 slung over my shoulder in a downtown highrise yelling commands or "flanking" female executives. Examples on the battlefield with Rambo don't show me how that works in the corporate world. I was hungering for a modern day example of the tactic being applied in business that would apply to anyone--not just a military standpoint. It was also bothersome that I could tell Professor Ridgley was reading his script--it would have been more appealing and impactful if he were telling his course in his own words from cue notes as many of the other profs do. I realize others, perhaps the majority of reviewers may disagree with me, but I wasn't pulled in on this one--if I can't see the "connect," I certainly can't convey this type of information to my audience members in an understandable context they will find relevant--most are not enlisted personnel who would appreciate it. I'll end with one positive thing I noted, and that was his passion for military history--which comes through in his presentation, and if you want a course that is really just suited for a lesson in military history, then this course is just that--it may suit your tastes. I'll likely return this one.
Date published: 2015-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Brilliant Course I have been involved in business for many years as a consultant and owning my own business but have never attended business school. So decided to undertake business related courses and having just completed Transformational Leadership chose this course on Strategy. It has already proved hugely invaluable in my business life. The course offers the latest thinking on all aspects of Stragegy including the development of the concept from military history and covers vital topics such as defining your grand vision("strategic intent") which must underpin any meaningful Strategy to how to develop differentiated offerings ("Blue Ocean") to your market. The Professor is captivating and i found the course intellectually stimulating and it provided tools of analysis(SWOT, Five Forces and PEST) which have help me de clutter my thoughts about business. I have used key concepts from this course in two of the businesses with which i am involved and these are already been massively well recieved by my business partners. Hugely recommend the course and the guidebook was detailed and so a definite a 5 star. In fact i loved the course so much i ordered the Transcript Book so i have access to everything the Professor said. Wonderful and more from this Professor please!
Date published: 2015-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eclectic and Practical I’d been meaning to pen a review of this course for some time and only got around to it when spurred on by reading a couple of negative reviews on here that just don’t make sense in the context of the course, what it says it offers, and what it in fact delivers. It’s inexplicable how some folks cannot seem to distinguish between a strategic principle and the example used to illustrate it. Another reviewer has observed this as well. Some people might be letting their political views interfere with their ability to take away positives from a reasonably benign course. This course is, in fact, my favorite of a half-dozen I’ve viewed or listened to. It’s a jewel that draws from eclectic sources and offers a rich aggregation of strategic nuggets and practical advice that helps the viewer reposition himself/herself against the environment in ways that can increase the chances for positive results. I've found the course engaging, the lecturer knowledgeable and clear – my favorites are the lectures on game theory, scenario analysis, and competitive intelligence, all of which have practical application in my line of work. The lectures are supplemented with video clips, superb graphics, and live demonstrations. The “Know Your Terrain” lecture was particularly well-constructed and includes a live-action sequence from a boxing ring. I have returned to the excellent manual many times, and the bibliography is a fantastic resource. The lecturer proceeds from a bedrock of experience and practice, and he offers a blend of practicality and theoretical knowledge, combining the two to good effect. In one or two of the early lectures, he’s not at his best, but he truly delivers in the remainder. If you don’t like history and you’re averse to “military topics,” then skip Lectures 2-4, as these lectures review the development of strategy from ancient times to the 19th century when virtually the only organization explicitly developing and utilizing strategic principles was the military. In fact, even as late as the 1960s, strategy was considered to be a military province, and for this reason, Peter Drucker’s publisher advised him to take the word “strategy” out of the title of his 1964 book that eventually became “Managing for Results.” To sum, this course is an easy listen and has valuable takeaways in most every lecture. The ideal Great Course offering! Congratulations to the Great Courses team for a winner.
Date published: 2015-03-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too Much Military History Few of us will be called upon to lead an army in the invasion of Europe. I had hoped this course would build upon some of the other critical thinking courses I've taken. This course has 2 major flaws in my opinion: 1. There are far too many references to military history. 2. When there are business applications, they are based on a chapter from a business book and not explored with much depth. If I want to assist a client in developing strategic thinking, I don't think that going to a story about Napoleon is particularly helpful. The few alternatives to military examples tend to be sports related. I frankly find this tiresome. I'll go even further and say that the military isn't the best place to look for examples of brilliant strategy. Prof. Ridgley was a cold war mid level manager based in Germany. Well, the military didn't end the cold war nor did the military do much to solve the problems brought on by the cold war. And after 12 years in Afghanistan, I wouldn't use the military as an example of how things should be done. The military is very political and extremely wasteful. (Note the story in yesterday's news about $500 million worth of U.S. munitions missing in YEMEN.) Oh sorry, yes, I support the troops. I found the course little more than a rah rah session for military history presented by a guy with plenty of military background who read a couple of the best selling business books. unless you are completely new to the topic, I doubt you'll find much of value in this course. I personally had to force myself through most of it. I would get hooked with something like, "how should we develop a new business plan?" And then go flat with, "let's look at Alexandar's conquest of ..." Ridgley is a decent lecturer and I think he would be great presenting a military history class. His business conflation with military history doesn't work. Business is not war, not does it, or should, bear any resemblance to warfare.
Date published: 2015-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really great experience I have always been interested in strategy in all arenas - war, business, politics, etc, and pursuant to this passion have read countless books and watched as many documentaries, after which I still could not really articulate the concept. This course showed me with great clarity what strategy really means and more importantly how effective strategy is planned and executed. I especially loved the use of examples from history. Beautiful course. Professor Ridgley is an excellent educator.
Date published: 2015-02-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 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!
Date published: 2014-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2014-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2014-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Against Epistemology The traditional view of the superiority of deductive reasoning as the paradigm of knowing is given a good run for its money right from Lecture One when Napoleon is quoted accenting the epistemic gap between planning action in the complex world of events and the actuality of intelligently responsive execution. In short, Prof. Ridgely steers us away from justificationism and its trappings of certitude with a very clear expression of "coup d'oiel". We are not abandoned to mere intuitionism but given heuristics which any intelligent person can apply to their own life. Long live strategy!
Date published: 2014-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview on the Art of Strategy I have studied Strategy for 20 years and now after so many books, courses, practice and teaching I can only say that Strategy is an art. This course is a very good overview of the Art of Strategy. If you are willing to have a comprehensive view, good examples covering sports, military and companies this is excellent material and content. I particularly liked the fact that the professor uses many examples from different areas showing that Strategy is the way of thinking and not just some formulas that you apply without putting your mind behind. This course achieve a very good balance. It is a material to listen more than once to grasp all the details and concepts. The best overview on Strategy I have found in the last years. I went through it more than once already and use is as a work of reference!
Date published: 2014-08-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from War and Football I have watched and listened to many courses and this was the worst. It should have been titled The History of War. Far too much of the content was storytelling about "great" military leaders with some sports stories sprinkled in to mix it up. Don't bother.
Date published: 2014-08-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too much fluff and not enough stuff This course is supposed to walk you though applying strategic thinking skills to your personal life. The course comes up very short in this regard. The professor is a very skilled presenter who unfortunately sacrifices depth for breadth. I found the short video shot of him teaching his class as an example of the relentless fight to learn strategy egotistical and off putting. He scratches the surface of one topic before moving on to another. The rushed romp through the PEST, Five Forces, and Value Chain Models in lecture ten is a good example. It is easy to miss the connection between the three in the rush. Asking people who may not have studied business or military history to think about how they can use the lecture concepts in their personal lives is an afterthought more than a service. Many viewers need a little more detailed guidance and handholding to walk that path. If offering this is beyond the scope of what can be presented, the professor should at least mention in his remarks where to find some helpful resources to make the journey.
Date published: 2014-08-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too heavily focused on military and war The content is good but I am disappointed at the continual reference to war games. I find it very off putting. I just started lecture 5 and decided to check the review which, shame on me, I did not do first. I will try and slog my way through it but have learned my lesson to read all the reviews before I buy
Date published: 2014-03-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Difficult to listen to Granted, I only listened to 3 lectures and parts of some others, so take my comments for what they're worth. I've really liked other TGC courses but I found the delivery grating (fairly well written but clearly just read from the page, and with such forced enthusiasm!). Moreover, the insights about strategic thinking were questionable. Example -- recounting a battle that had an element of spontantous change he concludes it was solely the commander's intuition to credit. No mention of his ability to communicate with and control his troops in heat of battle. It's not all flash of insight. It was this kind of shallow thinking that I had to abandon, I've read it before. Thank you TGC I got my $ back to try another. But if you stick with it, you may get something. I read it really starts in chapter 7 so I jumped ahead a bit but didn't buy in. I don't have the time for long chances. It was the generous refund of TGC that encouraged me to go ahead and share my thoughts. I'm eager to try another.
Date published: 2014-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well-structured and practical I wish Professor Ridgley’s course had been available a few years ago. This course is very well structured and flows easily. Strategic thinking is explained and contrasted with business paradigms that may often miss the mark. These skills are practical in both business and personal life, although the emphasis is clearly on applications in an organization setting.
Date published: 2014-01-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A solid survey on strategic thinking with 1 caveat I listened to this course on audio. It's a very good survey of strategic thinking, but with a caveat: Professor Ridgley's military focus dominates, and probably represents over 50% of the examples used throughout the course. It's not that the military analogies aren't relevant. It's just that the repeated emphasis on military examples was a bit much for my taste.
Date published: 2013-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tremendous Presentation of Essentials Professor Ridgley is simply a great presenter. I bought the digital download video version. I am very pleased and have learned a lot, both about the history and nature of strategic thinking. BRAVO!
Date published: 2013-11-10
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