Forward-thinking organizations do so much more than provide lip service to the idea of innovation–they envision new futures even while they conquer the problems of today. If forward-thinking strategies are part of your stated mission or desired business plan, it’s time to take a good look at how to fully embrace the future.
Here are five tips for successful forward thinking, for any size organization (especially those looking to grow).
1. Make Friends with Technology
Technology doesn’t just mean “smartphone accessible” anymore. Consider two categories of technology: the technology of analytics and emergent technologies, both of which you will want to utilize to forward progress at your company.
- Analytics – Advances in analytics govern everything from search engine optimization to micro trendscaping (these sometimes also get lumped in with business intelligence or business analytics). If all of that sounds too much like high school algebra, never fear–inexpensive, expert help is easy to come by. The main thing to understand is that analysis of statistical data, when done correctly, can help you spot opportunities for growth and advancement.
- Emergent Technologies – Living in a digital age means that technological tools for greater efficiency exist in nearly every field. Hop on the app bandwagon. Larger companies even employ technology scouts, but you can at least subscribe to feeds that let you know what emergent technologies might impact your business–and how to harness that power.
2. Listen to Outside Voices
When you offer a unique service or product, it’s sometimes necessary to tune out outside voices and focus on what you have and are developing internally, but that’s not a long-term sustainable practice or a way to be forward-thinking. What’s more, you’ll start to find yourself reinventing the wheel–the challenges you face in any industry have likely also been tackled by others.
It’s called being willing to learn from others, and it’s a crucial tip for being forward-thinking: stay and continue to get educated, encourage professional development, network and be open to new ideas from both your internal resources (employees at every level) and outside professionals.
3. Fewer Meetings, More Planning
Forward-thinking organizations have long-term strategies, not just cookie-cutter three year and five-year plans. An annual retreat, complete with some long-term dreams (like 20-year growth visions), can make a big difference in the motivational level and forward progress of your organization.
But at the same time, most meetings are a waste of time. Ditch useless meetings, but encourage long-term planning for greatest forward-thinking progress.
4. Trust Your Team
Much has been said about micromanaging, but consider this advice sufficient: don’t do it. Hire great people and then trust them to do their job. It’s difficult, as the visionary of your group, to continue that forward vision if you find yourself overseeing day-to-day activities on a routine basis.
So if you want to know how to be forward-thinking, practice trust and be the visionary.
5. Close the Generation Gap
Too much attention can be put on differences in generations: older people look at a young couple with their cell phones in hand at dinner and judge them as being “unable to communicate,” a younger employee starts explaining social media to an older employee, assuming they “don’t understand technology.”
While it’s true that ideologies shift as generations grow, focusing on those differences misses the point for business–that by utilizing any differences in perspective, you can build a more successful business model.
Business Success and Growth
So start young, and take on an intern still in school, or listen to the wisdom of a retiree willing to mentor you, and hire all ages in between. The most forward-thinking businesses embrace many diverse perspectives, and thereby boost the bottom line. So can you.