Ram Charan, the noted consultant and prolific author on issues of strategy + execution notes that business acumen is a learned skill that starts with the abiilty to construct and act upon a mental model of the big picture. 

“The essence of the skill is to find patterns from among a wide variety of trends and to posit the missing ingredients that could catalyze convergence. Many great leaders began to practice this exercise when they were younger, in less complex contexts, and over the years they have developed the requisite skills and judgment.”

To get started, he suggests you ask yourself and your colleagues a series of six questions:

  1.  What is happening in the world today?
  2.  What does it mean for others?
  3.  What does it mean for us?
  4.  What would have to happen first (for the results we want to occur)?
  5.  What do we have to do to play a role?
  6.  What do we do next?

Strategy + Business Magazine, Spring 2006