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What is Strategic Awareness?

Strategic awareness is a space where new ideas and innovation are constantly generated from a heightened non-contextual awareness. With this strategic awareness, leaders operate beyond the goal of competing to actively seize new and different possibilities. They live in the question and act on the possibility of things. They make the improbable or the seemingly impossible come about by bringing awareness and resources to things that lie beyond contextual reality and business-as-usual. This enhances the potentiality and probability of success enormously, ensuring that prospects and possibilities get generated into reality.

Strategically aware leaders have the point of view that there is no short supply of clients and funding, and there is no limit to possibility. They are aware that an industry’s structural conditions are neither inevitable nor finite. They are able to perceive and find distinctive market positions and sustainable advantages in a multitude of ways. They recognize opportunities and seize them.

The future arises from a constant stream of actions, choices, decisions, and strategies that have to be made in the present with as much conscious awareness, foresight, skill, astuteness, and wisdom possible. Leaders cannot take shifts in stride if they become attached to a fixed strategic direction or predetermined outcome. Without strategic awareness, leaders may be unaware of new opportunities or unable to appropriately perceive critical threats. Leaders who lack strategic awareness become derailed and get discarded sooner, while the injury and dysfunction that they have set in motion can be devastating for a business.

Strategic awareness places equal emphasis on both strategy and awareness. Strategic awareness is the process of fusing awareness to strategy and incorporating real-world knowledge of industry, global trends, and possible futures. It is the process of accessing non-analytic data and incorporating awareness or inner knowing into the strategic decision-making process.

Strategy and awareness are each essential to superior performance, which is the prime target of any enterprise. However, strategy and awareness work in very different ways. Awareness without strategy often results in leaders becoming mesmerized by the realm of potential possibility. They bounce from one idea to the next without any plan or strategy for carrying ideas through into physical reality. Awareness of the possibilities is important, but it’s not enough. You have to be able to bring the ideas into the world—and a sound strategy allows you to do this. Have you met people who talk on and on about their visions and aspirations, yet never create anything? In fact, many notorious big-business failures have stemmed from feeble or faulty strategies. In their book Billion Dollar Lessons, Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui point out that many big business failures could have been avoided if companies had been more strategically aware of potential pitfalls. It takes generative energy, will power, fortitude, and strategy to transform awareness into physical reality.

On the other side, being strategic without awareness means focusing on how to improve or enhance the organization’s current capacity or situation, while skipping the question, “What else is possible?” Without awareness, leaders easily become blind to changes and developments that the existing strategy has not taken into account. The organization focuses exclusively on their strategy. Leaders are not aware of the changes that are occurring in the world around them. Other possibilities are not recognized: The existing strategy becomes the “right” way to do things. Being strategic without awareness results in a cognitive bias that is prone to confirm evidence that is believed to be true.

So, neither awareness nor strategy alone is enough. But when awareness meets strategy, it has potential to change the world. Steve Jobs is a good example of what it means to embody strategic awareness. In our view, his phenomenal success is due to his brilliant capacity for marrying awareness with robust strategies. Every innovative product at Apple started with Steve Jobs’ intensity of awareness of new possibilities—and a heavy dose of creative strategies that make the possibilities a reality. Not one of Steve Jobs’ ideas would have stood a chance of becoming an innovative product had he not been able to operate from strategic awareness. 

To learn how to embed strategic awareness into your strategic plan, visit

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