Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2018-09-10

Implementing Strategy: Strategic Thinking

Today we face unrest in many parts of the region, changing economic conditions, technological transformations effecting every facet of our lives, and significant threats in the cyber realm; solutions to these challenges will require the coordinated employment of national tools to reassure friends and dissuade opponents, now and in the years to come. Such challenges will never go away and may become even more acute as regional and international conditions change over time. Strategic thinking forms the essential basis for almost all effective national responses and should continue to be the keystone of strategic leader development throughout the nation.  

All of the elements needed by successful strategists that have been discussed in these pages over the past few years can be developed only after foundational thinking skills are developed to enable their execution. The strategic principles, deception, deterrence, reassurance, information operations, resilience, strategic protection and even human security profit immensely from the key thinking skills that comprise strategic thinking.  

The key elements of strategic thinking include: critical and creative thought processes, disciplined approaches and the mindset to understand national priorities.

Critical thinking mandates the use of objective, fact-based analysis to form judgments. It requires self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking and rigorous standards of excellence. It also demands effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome bias, egocentrism and other blind-spots. Critical thinking provides the key to effective analysis. 

Creative thinking on the other hand is less about self-discipline and more about mindfulness and openness to new ideas. The strategic landscape is ever-evolving and complete solutions to strategic problems are rarely found in historical examples (though history can develop crucial perspectives that are valuable for successful execution.) Creative thinking requires strategists to look at problems and situations from a fresh perspective; it values unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first) and thrives on unstructured processes (such as brainstorming) and through parallel structured processes, such as lateral thinking. Creative thinking provides the essential route for execution success.

With these mental skills strategists can employ evidence-based approaches and focus national power through well managed coordination and synchronisation of effects to achieve long term national interests. None of these traits and techniques can be used effectively until our future leaders develop the strategic mindset and mental discipline that allows them to understand the essential elements of national power and be able to conceptualise how states interact on the global scene, while focusing all efforts on the essential needs of the nation.

Managing future threats and challenges and taking full advantages of future opportunities will test even the best strategic leaders. 
Global power struggles will continue, and innovation will ensure that our future remains undetermined, but the UAE’s ability to employ national power will continue to demand that leaders develop and hone their strategic thinking skills. With those skills, nurtured by our current leaders, advanced though education such as that provided at the National Defense College, and honed through the unrelenting tests of real world interaction, the UAE will continue to prosper. 

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