What part does cultural strategic thinking play within an organization?

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 18 March 2024

Cultural strategic thinking is a critical driver of organizational success. Leaders who are encouraged and able to think about both culture and strategy can mold and drive your organization’s ability to make decisions, innovate, adapt, and engage with your stakeholders. 


So, what is cultural strategic thinking? If you consider culture to be part of your organization’s lifeblood, it represents shared values, beliefs, norms, and behaviors. Strategic thinking, meanwhile, is the ability to anticipate, envision, maintain flexibility and work with others to create strategic change. 


The combination of these two components is “cultural strategic thinking”. Understanding the significance of this can be a game-changer, as it enables organizations to thrive in an increasingly competitive business landscape.

How are culture and strategic thinking linked?

Culture is often seen as a firm’s personality. Different company cultures, such as an adhocracy culture that values innovation and adaptability, or a hierarchy culture that puts more emphasizes order and control, greatly influence the company's strategic decisions and behavior. 


Different types of organizational culture lead to distinct forms of strategic thinking. An adhocracy culture, for example, encourages disruptive thinking and risk-taking, while a hierarchical culture emphasizes meticulous planning and procedure. Understanding these types of work cultures will help guide strategic thinking and decision-making processes.


A good example of the power of cultural strategic thinking is from Hanover client, Dudley Building Society. Hanover supported Dudley through a culture shift, which empowered employees and boosted team performance through a series of profiling, benchmarking, development planning and measurement, with a focus on leadership. The results are extremely positive, with individual improvements across the board and a marked upgrade in organizational culture.

Cultural strategic thinking techniques

Cultural strategic thinking techniques vary, but the most often-used techniques are future-oriented, value-driven and visionary thinking. Looking at each of these in turn, we can see that they each can have a role to play in an organization. There’s no “one size fits all” and it’s important to reflect on each technique and how it could be used to greatest effect in your organization.

1. Future-oriented thinking

Future-oriented thinking is all about forecasting. This technique encourages leaders to anticipate potential challenges, changes and opportunities on the horizon. It's a proactive approach that demands a keen understanding of the industry, market trends and competitive landscape. 


Promoting future-oriented thinking as part of your organizational culture can inspire leaders to stay ahead of the curve, pushing them to think beyond the immediate tasks and consider the potential long-term implications of their decisions.


2. Value-driven thinking

Value-driven thinking places your values at the core of strategic decision-making. In a culture that values transparency, for example, leaders and individuals might prioritize open communication and honesty in their strategic choices. 


In a culture that values innovation, risk-taking and out-of-the-box thinking might be encouraged. This approach ensures that all decisions align with the organization's identity and what it stands for, leading to consistency across actions and reinforcing the culture within the organization. 

3. Visionary thinking

Visionary thinking is all about creating and communicating a compelling vision for the future. Leaders practicing visionary thinking aim to inspire and motivate their teams, guiding them toward a shared goal. 


This kind of thinking is crucial in maintaining focus and unity across the organization, especially in times of change. A culture that encourages visionary thinking fosters optimism and engagement, inspiring employees to contribute to realizing your organization’s shared vision.

What is cultural intelligence and why is it beneficial?

Cultural intelligence, or CQ, is an individual’s ability to function effectively across various cultural contexts. It's an essential skill for strategic leaders in the modern business environment, especially in a time where organizations are (at last) becoming more diverse and change is fast-paced. 


CQ enables leaders to understand, appreciate and leverage diversity, in turn driving innovative thinking and enhancing adaptability - but the benefits of cultural intelligence extend beyond individual leader effectiveness. 


Cultivating a high level of CQ among every employee, no matter their level, supports team collaboration, especially when the team is diverse. It also allows for a more inclusive environment in which different perspectives are valued, leading to richer strategic thinking examples and a broader range of solutions to potential challenges.


Organizations with high CQ are generally better equipped to navigate global business and manage cross-cultural relationships. This strong international acumen can result in a more robust market presence and improved business performance.


Prioritizing cultural intelligence can also help organizations attract, engage and retain top talent from across different backgrounds. It’s often noted that a more diverse and innovative workforce can lead to improved business performance:

  • Diverse and inclusive businesses are 35% more likely to outperform competitors (McKinsey)
  • They are 70% more likely to capture new markets (HBR)
  • Diverse management teams can boost revenue by as much as 19% (BCG)


Fostering CQ is not only business beneficial - it's business essential.


How to introduce cultural strategic thinking in your organization

Introducing cultural strategic thinking in your organization starts at the top. As a leader, you need to recognize and understand your existing workplace culture, promote cultural intelligence and align your strategic thinking with your culture. 


Organizations also need to create an environment that encourages open-mindedness, diversity of thought and ongoing learning. Regular communication about the vision and values of the organization, alongside examples of strategic thinking, acts as further reinforcement.

Learn more about Hanover’s leadership solutions

At Hanover, we understand how cultural strategic thinking plays a part within an organization. We work one-on-one with leaders to develop this essential skill, supporting the creation of an organizational culture that breeds success. 


Contact us today to discover how cultural strategic thinking can drive your organization's growth and help achieve long-term objectives.

Get to know our team
by selecting your area of interest: