Mining the Future
by Linda Naiman
"If you want to see the future coming, 90 percent of what you need to
learn, youšll learn outside of your industry. There is nothing that you can
learn from inside your industry that will help you get ready for the future.
Literally nothing, because you already know it." Gary Hamel, author -
Leading the Revolution
When I conduct brainstorming sessions with people in various industries,
Išve noticed people often have a difficult time making connections between
their work and anything that is unrelated.
Here are some tips for mining the future to extract new ideas and new business
opportunities. Successful trend spotting will allow you to determine which
trends are commercially viable to exploit and to apply those trends to your
business equipped to handle change.
Four sectors of society tend to capture leading trend behaviour, products
and personalities: music, fashion, sports and fitness. (Thomas H. Hicks) You
can track these through film, TV and print media.
- Futurist Watts Wacker advises clients to read a trade magazine from a
different industry once a week. "Let's say I'm working with a bunch of computer
executives. Once a week for six weeks, I'll send them a different trade magazine
-- 'Progressive Grocer,' 'Automotive News,' something from
the corrugated-box industry, a jewelry magazine. Their assignment is to find
two things in every issue that relate to their business or provoke their
thinking. Everyone comes in with at least ten. It's a remarkably broadening
exercise." (Fast Company)
- Read consumer magazines, with your customers in mind. Current magazines,
that reflect emerging trends include: Wallpaper, W, Utne,
The Futurist, Vibe, Fast Company, Vanity Fair,
- Go back in time too. Read the classics for timeless wisdom to sharpen
your thinking. Aristotle, Shakespeare, Adam Smith.
- Visit museums, and attend cultural events.
- Visit trade shows outside your industry.
- Visit the restaurants and shops in the "glamour districts" of cosmopolitan
Marcia Yudkin, in her "Marketing Minute" newsletter, has this advice
for spotting trends:
- Watch early adopters. If you have friends who always buy the latest gizmo
or a teenager who leads the pack, observe what they get most excited about.
- Track new laws. Reason your way to new tools and assistance folks will
need to comply.
- Listen and ask. What new complaints do you hear in daily conversations?
What weird questions are coming in on your email or to your company receptionist?
- Notice unexpected customers. Are you getting orders from surprising
locations or demographic groups? This might indicate the need for an innovative
- Note coincidences. When some particular surprise pops up twice in one
week, it often indicates a trend. Stay alert and you may detect more examples
of a phenomenon that you can take advantage of. Don't get blindsided by
change. Develop your own crystal ball! Source: http://www.yudkin.com/marketing.htm
Visit these links about futurists and the future:
HotWired: the Future of the Future
The World Watch Institute
The Institute of Noetic Sciences
Linda Naiman facilitates creative thinking and collaboration in organizations.
She is co-author (with Arthur B. VanGundy) of Orchestrating Collaboration
at Work: Using Music, Improv, Storytelling, and Other Arts to Improve Teamwork"
(Jossey-Bass, March 2003). Visit www.creativityatwork.com
for more information.
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