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Forward Thinking: Definition, Benefits & How To Become Forward Thinker

Forward Thinking Sign, Traits & How to Train to Become

Being forward-thinking is undoubtedly a valuable skill in today’s rapidly changing world. But what does it truly mean to be forward-thinking? The answer may lie in understanding your unique strengths profile through a comprehensive assessment like the HIGH5 test.

By identifying your inherent talents and tendencies, you can unlock your ability to proactively drive change based on current circumstances rather than awaiting future validation. The HIGH5 strengths test provides personalized insights to help you leverage your natural inclinations toward becoming a more adaptable and forward-thinking individual.

In this article, we will be discussing what you can do to become more forward-thinking which will eventually lead to being more successful. We will also mention traits that are common among successful individuals. Keep reading to find out more.

What is forward thinking?

A forward-thinking mindset is proactive, instead of reactive. Forward thinkers are always looking ahead, and planning for what could happen. They aren’t afraid of taking risks, and they are always willing to learn and grow.

Forward thinkers are often highly creative and open-minded when it comes to problem-solving, which allows them to discover new ways of doing things. They’re constantly thinking of their next step rather than being satisfied with where they are right now.

People who have a forward-thinking mindset know that success doesn’t come without hard work, so they keep pushing themselves even when things get difficult. Forward thinkers don’t settle for the status quo – they want more out of life and aren’t afraid to do what it takes to achieve their goals.

A forward thinker is someone you want by your side in any situation because chances are high that they will figure out how to solve it or improve upon it long before you would have thought about it yourself.

Forward thinkers are unique in the sense that they can consider all sides of any new issue or problem they face, rather than just one. When trying to make a decision, forward thinkers won’t immediately reject an idea because it is different from what they were originally thinking about.

Examples of Forward Thinking


One notable example of forward-thinking is the development of the internet. Pioneers like Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who conceptualized the idea of an “internet,” envisioned a global network of information long before it was technically feasible or widely understood.

Their ability to anticipate the impact of digital interconnectedness on communication, commerce, and information exchange fundamentally transformed society. This example underscores the power of forward-thinking in identifying potentialities and steering technological innovation toward realizing those possibilities.

Electric vehicles

Another illustration of forward-thinking can be observed in the realm of renewable energy, specifically in the work of Elon Musk with Tesla, Inc. Musk’s commitment to renewable energy solutions and the mass production of electric vehicles (EVs) reflects an acute awareness of the looming climate crisis and the urgent need for sustainable transportation alternatives.

By focusing on the development of EVs and sustainable energy products, Tesla has revolutionized the automotive industry and set a precedent for integrating environmental sustainability into corporate strategy. This showcases how forward thinking is crucial in addressing global challenges by envisioning and implementing innovative solutions prioritizing long-term health and well-being over short-term gains.

Why it is important to have a forward thinker in the workplace

Employing forward-thinkers is invaluable for any organization striving for sustainable growth. Their proactive mindset allows them to make well-informed decisions that steer the company in the right direction. What’s more, their ability to think ahead and anticipate roadblocks enables them to devise innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

This is where leveraging a tool like the HIGH5 strengths assessment can be game-changing. By gaining insights into the unique talents of your workforce, you can strategically place forward-thinking individuals in roles that maximize their strengths, driving your company’s success.

By employing a forward thinker, a company can increase its chances of creating new ideas and solutions as opposed to the same old thing.

In addition, by having a person with a forward-thinking mindset in leadership positions or other high-ranking roles within a company, employees will be more inclined to follow the order because they trust that this individual has good judgment.

You need to become more forward-thinking because it will allow you to better adapt to change and problems that come your way.

By being on top of things at all times, you will improve yourself as well as those around you by helping them through difficult situations.

Top 10 benefits of having a forward thinker as a leader or team member

  1. Understand the importance of awareness of the big picture and the ability to see events as they may unfold over time.
  2. Possess a strong desire for continuous learning and improvement.
  3. Are driven by change and new experiences.
  4. Are adept at turning problems into opportunities.
  5. Are effective communicators that listen carefully and have an open mind.
  6. Are comfortable with ambiguity, making decisions quickly while remaining thorough.
  7. Are able to create excitement about change and inspire others to accept it.
  8. Have a high degree of self-awareness, understanding their strengths & limitations as well as those of others on the team.
  9. Can handle criticism constructively and bounce back from failure.
  10. Have the ability to make decisions with incomplete or conflicting information.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

Conduct team-based strengths assessments like HIGH5 to gain a holistic understanding of your collective capabilities. This insight can help you strategically distribute responsibilities and projects in a way that leverages everyone’s unique strengths towards achieving a common, forward-thinking vision.

Strategies & training to improve forward-thinking skills

There are various strategies and training that can help someone become more forward-thinking.

Unify your team around goals tied to one vision

It’s important to have a good vision for your team/company, but it can’t just be something that sits on a PowerPoint slide or whiteboard.

There needs to be an element of buy-in from everyone working there so they understand what direction they are going in – and how it will help them personally. If someone does not agree with the vision, it will show up in their performance which hurts the company overall.

Even if you don’t have a formal position of leadership, you need to work with the team and get them onto the same page as you before leaving them to get on with their jobs because otherwise, nothing will ever get done.

Branch out and learn from other organizations

No matter what business you’re in, it’s a good idea to learn from others who have been successful in industries similar to yours. You need to research other organizations, look at their successes, and learn from them – but you also need to find out about their failures so you can avoid doing the same things.

If there are key people who have been fairly successful with a different type of organization, consider inviting them over for a workshop, showing them your organization, and asking for any advice they might be able to give. This is an excellent way of finding out new strategies and improving the performance of everyone around you.

Remember the rule of three

When trying something new, aim for 3-4 small wins against challenging targets. By breaking down difficult projects into smaller segments, it becomes easier to achieve your goals and develop an increasingly forward-thinking mentality.

Read & watch

There are many great books written about psychology and human decision-making processes that any forward-thinking individual should try to read when they get a chance.

The same can be said for watching documentaries because they too showcase psychological biases, strategies to improve decision-making skills and highlight common mistakes people make when thinking about certain issues or trying different things in life that often lead to failure.

One of my favorite books is ” Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman which talks about biases in the human decision-making process

Take risks, kick tires, and experiment

Don’t be afraid to try something different – even if you have always done things one way before. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone so that you are not stuck in a rut trying to do the same thing over and over again without any real progress being made.

Experimenting is what will help improve the company culture overall because it might lead to new ideas that could save time/money or improve relationships with other teams/people within the business.

Abandon control

Even though you might feel like you know everything about your company/team, there is always someone out there who has more knowledge than you.

As the leader/owner of the company, it’s easy to become stuck in your ways and try to do everything yourself because no one else knows what they’re doing – but actually, if you just listened more often, you would be amazed at how much talent is under your nose.

Set aside time for forward-thinking

To be a forward thinker, you need to make sure that you have an appropriate schedule put into place so that you can plan and get more work done without feeling too overwhelmed or behind schedule.

This might mean organizing team meetings where members of staff can present their current projects and ask for help/advice from others.

Or it might just mean blocking out some personal time on your calendar each week so you can brainstorm new ideas or try something different than what people are normally doing day-to-day.

There is no right or wrong way to do this, you need to design a schedule that works best for you and your company.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

After taking the HIGH5 strengths test, identify areas where you excel at strategic thinking, creativity, and open-mindedness – all vital components of a forward-thinking mindset. Consciously invest in developing these strengths through targeted training, job aids, or stretch assignments that challenge you to apply them in new contexts.

8 traits and characteristics of a forward thinker

  1. Not dwelling on the past
  2. Seeing the larger picture
  3. The creative & analytical balance (synergy)
  4. Keeping a solid vision
  5. Not being trapped by conventional thinking
  6. Perseverance
  7. Open to possibilities
  8. Taking responsibility for one’s destiny

Not dwelling on the past

When someone overthinks too much about the past, they stop thinking forward. Forward thinkers are always trying to improve, and dwelling on the past isn’t a helpful way to move the company or themselves forward.

Forward-thinking people realize that you can’t hold grudges forever and that it’s better for everyone if you forget about what happened in the past and keep moving forward.

They look ahead rather than focusing too much on the mistakes of the past. They don’t dwell on their failures because they know there is no point in doing so. They learn from what happened and then try again until they get it right.

Unsuccessful attempts are just part of learning new things. It’s not worth getting upset over because it doesn’t change anything – you still have to try again even after failing.

Seeing the larger picture

A forward thinker can look beyond what’s right in front of them and into the future. They don’t get caught up on small details that might not be worth worrying about.

By not getting stuck on little things, they are better equipped to make decisions for the future of the company or themselves.

They know that good ideas come from taking a step back and thinking of the big picture instead of always looking at one thing or problem at a time.

The creative & analytical balance (synergy)

One common issue with people who only focus on creativity is that it can lead to impractical solutions without any sort of thought behind them.

For example, someone who just focuses on creativity might come up with a new way to make paper clips, but not worry about whether it would really work or how long it would take before the idea could be used.

Creativity needs to be balanced with logic and practicality otherwise people won’t think things through enough, and that can lead down an impractical path.

A forward-thinking person knows that you don’t have to choose one over the other because if you do, it will limit your abilities as a leader/ team member/ human being.

Keeping a solid vision

Having a solid vision means you’re not easily swayed by other people’s opinions, but you’re also able to see all sides of a situation and know what needs to be done.

A forward thinker knows that getting stuck on one idea or option can come back to bite them in the future. They aren’t afraid of change and welcome it because they understand it’s the only way to grow as a person/company/team member/human being.

They have a strong sense of self-belief and will trust their instincts because they’ve put the time into studying other people’s ideas so they can identify what works for them and what doesn’t.

Being open-minded means that people are less likely to get frustrated if something doesn’t work out as planned and that they persevere and keep going forward rather than give up when something gets difficult.

It also means they don’t let other people’s opinions and negativity hold them back from doing what they want to do or believing in who they are as a person.

Forward thinkers know you can’t please everyone else all the time – the only way to be happy is by staying true to yourself and doing what makes you happy (and sometimes that means disappointing others).

Not being trapped by conventional thinking

A forward thinker isn’t afraid to go beyond the boundaries of what’s considered normal and conventional because they’re always looking for new possibilities, and then finding ways to make those ideas a reality.

They tend to do things their way rather than following the crowd (even if it seems like everyone else is doing it). They push against a convention because they know that there is more than one way to get where you want to go – and some of those goals can be reached faster by going off on your path.

Forward-thinking people understand that the only opinions that matter are their own, so why would they care about others who don’t have anything positive or practical to say?


Leaders (in business or politics) need to be able to make tough decisions and deal with the consequences of those decisions – no matter how difficult it might be. This is what separates leaders from managers.

Leaders take responsibility for their actions, while managers delegate responsibility to others. This also applies if you’re not in a leadership position – however, you will still need to learn how to persevere at work, so this behavior becomes second nature.

Regardless of whether you are working with others on a project, dealing with your problems/issues, or just trying something new – forward-thinking people know they have to keep going until they reach their goal.

They don’t give up when things become challenging because they’ve already thought about every possible problem and have a well-thought-out plan of action. Even when things go wrong, they can stay calm and make it work in their favor.

Open to possibilities

Being open to possibilities means you’re always looking for opportunities – regardless of whether they are in the business world, at home, or in your personal life.

The forward thinker won’t dismiss any idea/possibility or opportunity that comes their way because they know that every conversation could be the start of something new and exciting.

If someone mentions an idea to them, they will listen intently because you never know where it might lead. While other people just want to get on with the job, forward-thinking people will spend time discussing ideas with team members because they understand that everyone can bring value to what’s being said.

Taking responsibility for one’s destiny

To move ahead in life, people need to take responsibility for their actions and decisions – this means learning from your mistakes, but also seizing opportunities that present themselves.

Not everyone will be comfortable with every single opportunity that comes their way, so self-awareness is an important part of figuring out how to grow as a person.

It requires confidence and the ability to know what you want and where you want to go at all times – even if not everyone else can see your vision or agree with you.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

Review the results of your HIGH5 assessment to understand which of the 8 traits come most naturally to you and which may require more conscious effort. For areas of strength, find opportunities to lean into them wholeheartedly. For growth areas, explore ways to develop complementary strengths that can help you embody a more comprehensive forward-thinking approach.

Forward-thinking FAQ

What does it mean to be forward-thinking?

Forward-thinking individuals are focused on their long-term goals and care deeply about the future. They tend to be progressive and often think innovatively or ahead of their time. For instance, you could realize that customers truly need a product before anyone else does.

This would be an example of someone recognizing a demand before a product is commonplace, thus being forward-thinking. Many visionaries like Steve Jobs and civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King are great examples of what it looks like to be forward-thinking.

What is another term for forward-thinking?

Prospective thinking – this term is used more often in psychology and means the same thing as forward-thinking.

What do you call someone who is forward-thinking?

Someone who is forward-thinking can also be referred to as a strategic thinker, visionary, or innovative thinker. They can anticipate and plan for future outcomes and are unafraid to embrace change and new ideas.

Is it reasonable to be a forward thinker?

Being a forward thinker can bring many benefits in both personal and professional life. It allows one to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changing circumstances, making them more resilient. Additionally, it can open up new opportunities and help achieve long-term goals.

What does it mean to be a forward thinker?

Being a forward thinker means being able to envision potential outcomes in the future and make decisions based on that foresight. It involves being proactive rather than reactive and actively seeking out new ideas and approaches to problem-solving.

How do you train forward thinking?

Forward-thinking can be trained through deliberate practice and intentional efforts. Some ways to develop this skill include constantly seeking new information, staying curious, challenging assumptions, and embracing change.

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