Lack of Strategic & Critical Thinking: Why Most Businesses Fail?

The problem is students are going in, learning the theory, but have no critical thinking skills, no outside-the-box skills, no world view, no big-picture thinking. They have all the theory and none of the practice

PayPal Logo

A quote from Irish Times article with Louise Phelan, Head of Paypal EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa).  She criticised Irish college leavers as having a poor ability both to plan and to innovate. However, Paypal has announced they're giving Ireland another 1,000 jobs in any event - good news. But is this a larger problem for businesses and websites across the globe?

In honest reflection, strategic planning was one of my big problems in past projects and earlier businesses. I wasn't lacking in big picture or out of the box thinking and had a business plan. But much of my work and processes were reactionary and opportunistic rather than concise and coherent. If I could talk to my younger self for just a few minutes things may well have gone differently.

Critical thinking is not the same thing as strategic thinking, but they are peas from the same pod. Strategic thinking is about structured, reasoned planning. It springs from a mindset of critical thinking, which is about structured, reasoned analysis. Why is this useful?

At its simplest it's the same reason why you use a map to figure out how to get to your destination. It makes it far more difficult to get there if you don't know your target destination or the route. Yet numerous people in business are still doing this and wondering why they're not seeing better progress.

Phelan's quote echoed much reading and research I've been digging through lately concerning success of online businesses and websites and similarly how small bricks and mortar businesses utilise their websites.

Unlike most in our field who just teach the tool, we also show people how best to wield the tool, specifically for each of our members.

Beware the Shiny Objects

Cloud Gate (Flickr: rwlowe)

Many people new to online business in particular, get sucked into what Dan Kennedy has referred to as  'bright-shiny-object syndrome'. They bounce from course to course on how to better utilise this or that tool, some with reasonable and some outrageous claims of success.

All those 'shiny objects' are merely tactics. These are distractions if they're not in tune with your overall strategy and goals. For example, SelfAssemblySites predominantly uses video in our members area. Therefore enrolling in James Wedmore's course, Video Traffic Academy on harnessing the power of YouTube, slots in nicely with our overall direction and goals. It's a platform we'll be increasingly building upon. The tactic must compliment the strategy and combine to make the plan reality, otherwise your efforts prove as wasteful as a loose sail flapping in the wind. Reduction of waste is key, in time, energy, effort and resources.

Small businesses in the real world, by definition, keep a more firm footing on reality. But most are still loosing out by not utilising their websites, leaving large amounts of potential and wealth untapped and underexploited.

Most people accept that when you start a new enterprise it's wise to write a business plan. It clarifies the purpose of the business and the realities of the market. This process brings a lot of assumptions and dangers to the surface so they can be dealt with early on.  Why do so many people not clarify the purpose of their website and the realities of their online market?

This is why we feel it's crucial for people to plan to get the most out of their website, to make the site reflect their business objectives accurately.  So often you land on a site that seems promising but then are either confusing, you don't know what action it wants you to take, or offers no value when you do. It breaks its promise and doesn't do what it said it would and that's a cardinal sin for a website.

With a little planning you can turn a passive site that doesn't do much for you into a positive and constructive engine for your business, making you more leads and sales conversions. Not just saving you money, but making you money.

Planning Is Not Sexy But Is Sensible

Effective vs Ineffective Sites

Most want to do, not plan or think, they want to act. They want to learn by doing, when the costs and stakes are low that's a great way of learning. The danger is initial enthusiasm may diminish rapidly as the effort go unrewarded.  Without a central clear thread running through the site work is more futile as it's confused in its purpose.

Most jump in and understandably want quick results, a solid foundation on which to build. For that we created the QuickStart course. You can have the basic bare structure of a professional quality website live within about 2 hours, a good number do it in under 90 mins on their first try. It's a superb confidence building, quick victory. But it's like having the frame of a house, it's a good start but it's empty, there's no furnishings, so nobody will visit.

This is the key crucial part where many realise they should go back and plan the content. Content is King but only when it's relevant. The relevancy of all your content on all your pages gives value to a visitor. That's only achieved through awareness of your product, your customer and the market and then linking them all together on your site.

Our Website Planner Course does just this.

It's ideal to start with the planning and then build the basic structure and your content. But it's workable to do it the other way too which seems to be the majority of our members. Most want the early victory to justify their time, then go back and plan from there.

Even a little planning can go a long way. So we're putting together the Espresso Planner, which will be the 80/20 of the Website Planner Course, only the most essential elements will be in there. Designed especially for those in a hurry. It should be available in the coming weeks.

Find Your Acid Test

Acid Test Kit (Flickr: diversitech.bcreager)

You need to know the central thread of what your business does and how your website represents those principle.  Compared with this thread everything else is either in step with it or not, that's your acid test. If it's very relevant keep it in, if not get rid of it, or angle it so that it becomes relevant to the cause. That's how you do what you say you do and convert browsers into customers, and turn once-off customers into ongoing clients.

Strategies and principles are usually evergreen. They don't wither with fashion or go obsolete with growth in technology. The principles are the same, it's just the tools that change.

This is an approach I wish I'd known earlier on in my career, but better late than never.

About Alistair McBride

Al is the non-techie of the SelfAssemblySites' founding duo. His first businesses were in cultural tours, then later art dealing and consulting. He was SelfAssemblySites' first user and believes if he can do it, anyone can.

He has a wide and diverse range of interests and passions, core of which are usually art, psychology and innovation, and works on both profit and non-profit projects.

Alistair truly believes that a website can be a catalyst to making any idea reality in the 21st Century. You can create all sorts of non-profit and for profit projects take-off with a good website as your launch pad.

Follow him on Twitter at @WebsiteCoaching.

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