So most of us in small business like to be ahead of the game. When I stopped to think about it I was reminded of an electrician client who has a strong business belief in being forward thinking. That made me look into what it means to be forward thinking, how it’s shown, and what it means for a small business to be forward thinking.
What’s the meaning of ‘forward thinking’?
Oxford define forward thinking as:
favouring innovation and development; progressive.
I believe that most of my clients prefer progressive, with the exception of the electrician who also favours innovation.
I think it’s interesting that they include ‘favours’, as in they don’t follow innovation or progression at all costs, more that given a choice that is what they will choose and within reason. It also means that they don’t exclude lessons from the past or reviewing what has been.
How do you demonstrate ‘forward thinking’?
Forward thinkers are strategic and have a great idea of the future of the business. They may not have it pinned to specifics, but they’re certainly not dwelling on why they’re not there. In fact, because they are forward thinking they will often have many options and pathways to achieve that future.
While you may think of forward thinkers as ‘yes’ people and they often are. They are clear on how that yes or no gets them closer to their goal. Their thinking is open to the possibilities and consequences. They learn from the past and apply that to the now to achieve the future.
Competition is the enemy of forward thinking and copying others is not thinking; both of these close the mind to opportunity. Forward thinkers see others in their field as collaborators and understand that the marketplace allows for competitors to thrive alongside each other because consumers differ.
Forward thinking requires small businesses to be flexible but to also analyse opportunities and behaviours. Small business owners who are forward thinking also realise that they are responsible for their part in this. To demonstrate forward thinking, small business owners need to be able to critically analyse themselves and not just their business or the environment.
How does being ‘forward thinking’ benefit small businesses?
The big thing we dream of with being a forward thinking small business is making it big and being the next Uber or Apple. The good news is that there are more quickly tangible benefits than hitting it big.
I learnt a long time ago to be ok with being in a blue ocean in my small business. That self-assurance was a big win for me. It also taught me to become very clear on who I am, what my business and I stand for and being able to articulate that. All while still being ok with being alone.
Being forward thinking opens many doors you never knew existed. It also requires you to knock on the doors you want to open. For some of us it requires us to find courage in corners we never knew existed and for others to be prepared for any opportunity. Either which way we win at some level.
Forward thinking allows us to see things as they are rather than as others wish we would see them. We think critically. This unfortunately can include ourselves. Forward thinking leads to great personal growth.
How to become a forward thinker?
So if you wish to be a forward thinker or improve your forward thinking skills for yourself and your small business, here are some of the skills I have gathered will help in that journey:
- Understand your ‘why’
- Learn widely and listen, including people outside your field
- Make it a value of your small business
- Make time, even take time away to dedicate to it.
- Have courage
- Be ok with being alone in the marketplace
- Embody & embrace creative thinking and creativity
- Think critically and from outside your experience, belief and value set
A final word
In 2015 I joined a live streaming community called Blab, on it I discovered Mark Proffitt. Mark took 25 years of research and his work with Apple to develop his approach to innovation called Predictive Innovation. I had the honour of a one-on-one session with Mark, using his system to help me gain clarity on my business. I know how empowering and powerful it is.
If you’re interested in learning his approach to innovation and being forward thinking, I encourage you to check out his book and other resources.
If you need help defining your value, understanding your why, being ok in your blue ocean, or any other item I’ve mentioned here please set up a time to chat with me through my online booking system.