Great business innovators often appear to have anticipated a trend. It seems that they must have been prescient in that they got into the right place at the right time and produced the product or service that people wanted next.
How can some people forecast the future and anticipate the unknown? The reality is that they do not. More likely they observe something that is already happening and see an opportunity in it. William Gibson said, ‘The future has already happened, it is just unevenly distributed.’
What a minority of people are doing today the majority will be doing tomorrow. All you have to do is to find that minority. To do that you have to develop your skills at understanding trends. You do this by keeping an open mind and trawling many different inputs. Search the internet. Read blogs. Scan different magazines. Travel to other countries. Meet new people. Discover things outside your normal zone of expertise and interest.
Whenever you see a new trend ask yourself what this might mean. What are the secondary consequences?
The invention of the motorcar meant that people could travel faster. A secondary effect was that people lived further from their place of work and the suburbs expanded.
The lightbulb replaced candles. It also replaced going to bed early. Now people could read books or go out in the evening on streets and to buildings that were well lit.
The internet linked computers together. Jeff Bezos saw that this meant that people could buy things much more easily and he launched Amazon. Pierre Omydar saw that it enabled communities to join together in auctions and he launched eBay.
For each new trend there will be follow-ons, consequences and changes that create opportunities and threats. Every time that you see a change in your business world play a little game of what if. What if this becomes a big trend? What will the consequences be?
Paul Sloane writes and speaks on innovation. He is the author of The Innovative Leader