How To Use A Reverse Thinking Mindset For Business Improvement

Over many years I have met a lot of successful leaders, across many industries and I can’t help but notice that a lot of them think in reverse mode. Reverse thinking is a powerful mindset technique that we can all use – if we are aware of it.

A reverse thinking mindset can be used to great effect for business improvement and strategy review.

The classical forward-thinking approach to business improvement

The classical approach is to consider your current position (or origin) and plan steps logically from the origin into the future. You consider all the facets of your business and how each needs to improve and by how much. Your plan and subsequent business progress are therefore based upon a series of  steps or building blocks using your origin as the foundation.

Your business plan inevitably, will be based upon what you think you can achieve using a set of assumptions. The goals can include stretch targets.

“New or inexperienced business owners often think in this purely logical forward-thinking way. This is also how many business owners are encouraged to think when writing business plans.”

This is similar to a project management approach, that works well with a defined outcome and resources.

The reverse thinking mindset

Some successful business owners, however, don’t think in this classical way but in a reverse mode. They start by imagining a position or condition that they would like to achieve in the future. Then, they work backwards to come up with the steps to achieve their goal.

Core strengths and capabilities, along with opportunities that they see in the wider market are taken into account. Often, inspiration comes from other industries or best practice bench marks, to set a frame for improvement goals.

Initially, they are less concerned with a defined outcome or even the resources they might need. They are more focused on what they might be able to achieve rather than how they will achieve it.

“They are more focused on what they might be able to achieve rather than how they will achieve it.”

So, what’s the big difference?

In the forward-thinking style, the hidden trap is that your thinking is constrained by your current circumstances and resources.

This can mean under achieving on your potential because your current position is dominating your mindset.

This classical method is also internally focused and incremental.

The reverse thinking method focuses on what you want to achieve rather than your origin and current resources. Plans and visions are therefore not constrained by your current limitations. This can lead to much larger ambitions and achievement. It also provides the opportunity to think more creatively and consider the direction that the business should take.

It is more externally and cross industry focused. You set targets using best industry practices and new ways of thinking.

What about a hybrid?

Great businesses need vision and ambition married with excellent execution. Use the reverse thinking mindset to help you form the vision and direction of your business improvement. When it comes to working out how to get there, then a good classical forward thinking will help you with implementation.

“This approach is great whether you are focusing business improvement or pivoting toward a new strategy.”

Some people are capable of both forward and reverse thinking. If you find you have a disposition for one or the other, then balance your business improvement process by involving someone with the opposite or complimentary skill set to you.

Very few SMEs have either effective improvement or strategy plans.

I have found that the most effective way of approaching business improvement is actually by using the hybrid method as it allows you to consider a bigger picture with a built-in strategy review.

If you need to re-think your business performance perhaps you should start thinking in reverse too-you don’t know where it might get you.


If you would like to find out more about how I might be able to help your business improve please contact me at or call 0401018282 or visit




Share This