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Critical and Strategic Thinking in Practice

Use critical thinking and the conceptual thinking framework to approach problems effectively and communicate your solutions.

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25 Jul 2022
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Learn to solve complex problems with strategic thinking

Life and business are getting faster and more complex every day. The faster pace ramps up the pressure to act quickly but this complexity needs careful, strategic, conceptual thinking, which takes time.

On this four-week course featuring content from BigThink, you’ll learn from some of the brightest minds in conceptual thinking such as Alan Alda, Charles Duhigg, Leonard Mlodinow, and Nancy Duarte, to name a few.

You’ll discover the conceptual thinking framework and learn practical skills for how to apply it to problems and communicate your analysis in order to problem-solve efficiently and effectively.

Discover how to approach and define problem-solving

A common mistake companies make when tackling complex problems is failing to do the pre-work. This can waste time, energy, and money because either the team isn’t right or the goals are poorly defined.

This course will guide you through strategies for looking at the problem space with clarity, then assembling a team with the right balance of talents to think creatively and reach consensus.

Explore different critical thinking strategies

We have hardwired tendencies to think within our “comfort zones” which can often cause us to miss opportunities and perspectives that might lead to more creative solutions.

On this course, you’ll learn practical strategies for considering all stakeholders, seeing the problem through different eyes, evaluating potential risks, and connecting unlikely dots for inspiration.

Develop communication skills to get buy-in for your solutions

No matter how brilliant your idea might be, communication can mean the difference between success and failure.

You’ll learn how to transform your idea into a reality by improving your communication skills to get buy-in from other stakeholders and decision-makers.


  • Week 1


    • A Competing Values Framework

      What are the values of your organisation? Throwing you in the deep end, we begin the course by asking you to explore your Competing Values Framework.

    • Making complex decisions

      Look at the problem space with clarity, by embracing truth.

    • The science of strategic thinking

      Having a broad set of perspectives and voices is essential, but that alone can cause problems as well as solving them. Transient Diversity is the aim.

    • Risk mitigation

      Learn from astronaut Scott Parazynski about situationally appropriate leadership.

  • Week 2


    • The science of productivity

      “Everything happens for a reason” is comforting but actively investigating multiple future possibilities is the better approach to decision-making.

    • Lessons learned

      Create a problem statement to define your direction.

    • Narrow your focus

      To make meaningful progress on any complex problem, Erik Kandel, winner of the Nobel Prize in the field of neuroscience, advises a two-stage approach.

    • Systems thinking 101

      Problem solve by combining reductionist thinking with “big picture” systems thinking.

    • Adapt to change with elastic thinking

      In the final steps of this week, we introduce next week's theme 'thinking', by discussing cognitive flexibility.

  • Week 3


    • Serve your purpose

      NBA commissioner emeritus David Stern outlines how a reexamination of brand values can revitalise any organisation.

    • Viewing from all angles

      Check your biases, and take on the point of view of a competitor or other opposing party to gain strategic insight.

    • Seeing around the curve

      Astronaut Chris Hadfield offers a framework for risk mitigation, by predicting the consequence and probability of events.

    • Making associations

      NBA player Shane Battier studied this competitors systematically, to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and more precisely outmanoeuvre them.

  • Week 4


    • The cleanest question

      Mathematician Po-Shen Loh boils problems down to their essential elements.

    • Communicating to transform

      CEO and author Nancy Duarte shares presentation techniques that will ensure your audience understands and buys into your message.

    • Unite your organisation

      Chris Fussell outlines a battle-tested approach for efficient communication in an adaptable, networked modern organisation.

    • Final reflections

      Lets bring together everything we have learned over the past four weeks.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply the conceptual thinking framework to a problem of your choice and structure your team to implement it.
  • Define the problem you’re facing in clear and succinct terms.
  • Apply critical thinking strategies to generate possible solutions.
  • Explore how to communicate your analysis of the problem and your proposed solutions in ways that win buy-in from other stakeholders within and outside of your organisation.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for professionals at any stage in their career, and will be especially useful for current or aspiring leaders currently in the earlier stages of their careers.

By completing this course, you’ll gain the skills to tackle complex problems, define goals clearly, and develop effective solutions; the perfect skillset for any leader.

Who developed the course?


FutureLearn is jointly owned by The Open University and The SEEK Group and has been providing online courses for learners around the world over the last eight years.

Big Think

Big Think is a leading source of expert-driven, actionable, educational content with thousands of videos, featuring experts ranging from Bill Clinton to Bill Nye.


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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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