Is strategic thinking a noun or a verb?


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We know that a noun is a naming word, like book, table, thought, and, yes, thinking. We also know that a verb is a doing word, like walk, run, talk, and think. So while think strategically is a verb, strategic thinking, by all intents and purposes, is a noun. So why are we asking this simple question, if indeed strategic thinking was a noun?

Well, as it turns out, the question is not so simple. It is actually a matter of perception. When I look at the piece of furniture called table, it does not evoke any response from me. It is a noun. Yet, when I table a motion for discussion, that same word (called a homonym) now has an action to it. Yet, I am not talking about homonyms here as well. There is no homonym in thinking. So what am I trying to say?

Language is a complex human endeavor and while a noun is a noun, and a verb is a verb, nouns can be seen as verbs. When I Swiffer the floor, or Xerox a document, you know what I have done. I needn’t have used the words “mopped” or “duplicated” to connote the actions associated with the noun. I have therefore transposed a noun into a verb. In fact, all marketers hope their product can be made into a verb, because it means that there is universal understanding to the effectiveness of the product in getting the job done. In other words, the greatest compliment to a noun is when it is transposed into a verb.

Strategic thinking should therefore be a verb.

This is because strategic thinking should not simply be a word that resides in our head with no action to it. When one applies strategic thinking, one will first identify the intent of the decision; the events and decisions that had brought about the situation; the systemic nature of that situation and the drivers that cause it to be in one position or another; the other perspectives for solutions; and then the hypotheses that it seeks to address and turn into a solution. This is a holistic application to thinking that helps strategic thinkers move from the passivity of “strategic thinking as a noun” to “strategic thinking as a verb”.

So what is strategic thinking to you? I do hope you agree with me that it should be a verb because it does no one any good to just keep strategic thinking in the head with no action. If strategic thinking is a noun for you, then you would be as effective as one who cannot think; and that would not do you any good! Your strategic thinking must lead to action, a hypothesis-driven one. You will then agree with me that strategic thinking is a verb.

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