Leaders, are you seeking out trends in your industry? Whilst too much change is counterproductive, it is good to scan the horizon to see what is happening around you. By looking around you might just see something that makes you think differently and ask the tough questions you need to ask about your current practice.
In today’s fast moving world it can be difficult to focus on which trends are truly disruptive or likely to impact significantly and this fear of trend overload can diminish the appeal of setting it as a task. Some trends seemed to be full of promise and yet never took off—take 3D TV for example; chasing these trends will ultimately have proved a waste of time and effort and been expensive in terms of money and morale.
On the other hand, having a very transactional approach to getting the job done may mean that your direction of travel misses the really important trends and that your competitors leave you behind. History is littered with examples of businesses that failed to spot the ‘game-changer’ that should have alerted them to the need to review their business model: Blockbuster Video and Woolworths, for example.
Keeping an eye on trends can reveal counter-intuitive solutions. Our technology obsessed world makes it easy to see trends purely in terms of tech solutions, for example faster and faster delivery and less effort to make decisions, particularly about product choice. Spotting ‘counter-trends’ can open up the potential to do things differently. For example, by spotting the stubborn refusal of books to disappear, entrepreneurs are reviving the bookseller market. The even more observant may see the behaviour and values behind counter-trends (for example the desire for people to interact with tangible objects).
In organisational terms, building a process for early and mid-point monitoring of trends is something that can include early spotters, followers and evaluators. Disruptive thinkers and counter-culture cynics can also get in on the act. Indeed, trend analysis should not be treated as a chart-based exercise; it should include debate and discussion from different perspectives before ant resourcing and investment decisions. What is essential is that everyone understands the value of trends, the limitations and their contribution to making this an effective part of business development.