Are people who have the ability to think strategically more likely to survive, perhaps even prosper, in the face of adversity?  Do they have a greater likelihood of achieving high levels of professional success?  I have wondered as much over the course of my work with my clients.  I most recently asked myself these questions while serving as a panelist at the CREW Network event, “Finding Success amid the Downturn.”

While listening to the thoughts of my fellow panelists Tere Blanca and Marjie Nealon and moderator Angel Cicerone, I couldn’t help but notice at least two qualities that the three seemed to have in common.   First, each has thrived over the course of her longstanding career in a very competitive and difficult industry.  Second, all three panelists seemed to be, what we call in the business, “R1 thinkers.”

Now you probably are asking yourself, “What in the world is a R1 thinker?”  Good question.  R1s are referred to as “strategist/imaginers.”  They are those of us who are described as “big-picture,” “visual thinker, “opportunity oriented,” and “challenges status quo.”

Interestingly, these same concepts were reflected in the perspectives shared by Tere, Marjie, and Angel.  In fact, the fundamental message of what they all said was: “be proactive,” “visualize your outcome,” “stay focused on the finish line,” “do not be afraid to change,” and “think outside the box.”  Not only are these suggestions sensible, but they are textbook R1 insights!

To further understand how R1s think, it is helpful  to look at how R1s react when presented with a challenge or opportunity.   Typically their default question is “Why?”  Anyone who has been in a meeting with a R1 knows this to be true.

When you tell a R1 your goal, signing a particular client for instance, and the steps you are going to take to get there, you are greeted with an unequivocal, “Why?”  Specifically, why is it so important to have John Smith as a client, why is he worth the effort, and why does John Smith further your ultimate goal?

Right about now the R1s reading this are thinking “exactly, that describes me all right” and everyone else is wondering “where does that leave me?”  The answer is that there is hope for you too!  Those of us who are not strategist-imaginers, anywhere from 50% to 75% of the population, simply have to practice.  While you do not always have to keep it on, you do need to try on the R1 hat every once in a while.  Think of it this way, R1 thinking is like a tuxedo.  You do not have to wear it all of the time, but it is good to have in your closet so you can pull it out for special occasions.

Therefore, the next time you find that you are not moving your career forward in the way you want or at the desired pace, ask yourself “what would Tere, Marjie, and Angel do?”  Alternatively, sit down with pen and paper and figure out how many new ideas you can generate.  See how unique you can be.  Determine whether someone, anyone, would call your new plan of attack visionary.  If none of this yields results, find your really unique friend (we all have at least one) and find out what she thinks.

Adlin Sinclair was right when he said, “To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and subsequent actions.”  If you are interested in being more successful, you have options.  Give R1 thinking a try.  You very well may find that being a strategist/imaginer suits you.