Thinking Strategically: The 3 Principles of Effective Strategic Thinking

It’s curious, seeing a strategic thinker at work.

Darren Matthews
8 min readJun 24, 2021


Photo by SJ Objio on Unsplash

I didn’t expect a film could teach me anything about strategic thinking. As I watched on, this trauma consultant was certainly thinking strategically. He was looking on from the foot of the bed, observing the patient, and listening to his colleagues as they told him what they had done. He glanced up — checking the patient’s vitals on the monitors above the bed. Digesting all of this, he then gave orders on what his team should do next. It’s curious, seeing a strategic thinker at work.

Curiosity drew me in — why was the consultant thinking strategically? Here was a busy trauma room, with a team battling to save a life, and the senior doctor wasn’t even treating the patient.

Studying the film, and seeing the same actions in use repeatedly, allowed me to see what was going on. The trauma room had a process. In emergency care, the strategy is condensed — with extra attention focused on the first hour — the golden hour. The analysis of data, along with better skills, has shown how critical this hour is. What happens can make the difference between life and death. And so, with the focus on saving lives, a process of care has grown that enables strategic thinking.

Strategic thinking in a trauma room

In the trauma room, time shrinks, but that doesn’t lessen the need for the consultant to think strategically. As I considered it, if anything, it intensifies it, for there is no greater burden than trying to save a person’s life. The drama of saving a life was there to see — but I wasn’t interested. It was the strategic approach I was observing.

I could see the strategic mindset of the consultant at work. As I watched, so he held a position at the foot of the bed. He could see the patient, the monitors — and his team as they worked on the patient. All the time, he was watching, listening, and thinking about the patient’s condition. New information appears as the patient either responds — or doesn’t. The consultant’s job is to make sense of this continuous cycle of data.

As I observed from watching a stream of new patients, the process was always the same…



Darren Matthews

I’m utterly curious about decision-making | Sharing lessons learned from the thousands of decisions I’ve studied and made | Founder