Successful business leaders often seem to have an uncanny ability to predict the future. However, even the biggest names sometimes make mistakes. Take Bill Gates, for example. He was one of the first to realize that people would use computers at home. He also thought the Internet would be a fad.
Likewise, Sony launched the highly popular Walkman, letting people listen to music on the go. The company also missed the boat on MP3 players, like the iPod (and now iPhone). Predicting the future is easier said than done.
However, there are some steps you can take to make trend spotting easier. Let’s go over some basic tips.
Understand that Change is a Constant
The first thing you need to do is recognize that change is a constant. Seriously. The world is going to look very different in ten years. In fifty years? We probably can’t even comprehend the change that is coming on such a long time scale. Remember, fifty years ago there were no home computers or cell phones.
The technologies we are using today are going to evolve. So too will social preferences. And then we have potentially system changing developments, like global warming. In order to spot trends, you first have to recognize that change is inevitable, that’s the first step in mastering change management!
Data Is Knowledge…
And knowledge is power. We live in an era of big data. It is now possible to collect data on a huge range of topics and from seemingly limitless sources. Data is only going to become more prevalent in the future as more and more devices are plugged in.
Soon, cities may all but rely on data. Traffic lights might respond to real life traffic flows, for example. By using data, you may be able to spot trends yourself. At the very least, when change does emerge, you’ll have a better understanding of where you’re at and how to react.
Know Your Customers Inside and Out
Next, you need to know your customers and every detail you can pick up about them. You need to understand their wants, needs, preferences, habits, and everything else, and you need to know all of this stuff intimately. You also need to understand how they consume information. By developing a deep understanding of your customers, you may be able to see changes in their preferences before they actually occur.
Take smart phones for example. The average consumer has long loved the Internet. Human civilization is plugged in 24/7. In hindsight, it should come as no surprise that smartphones became so popular. Among other things, they allow consumers to quickly and easily tap into the Internet.
Given all of the above you should indeed start focusing on how to approach customer loyalty in the digital age as well, that’s going to be a key factor of the success you’re aiming for.
Remember That Markets Cannot Be Controlled
One big mistake come companies make is trying to control markets. Technological change can threaten some companies and their current product/technology lineup. Take Barnes and Noble, for example. They were slow to offer an e-book reader and by the time they did, Amazon already dominated that market.
Barnes & Noble may have been worried about e-readers and e-books cannibalizing the print book market. However, this worry is actually irrelevant. If change is going to happen, if the market and consumer preferences point towards change, no single company will be able to stop that change.
If your business stands to lose from changing markets, the best thing you can do is change your business. If you don’t change things up, you may end up losing out to a competitor. This 12 steps process for effective change management should be a good starting point in getting skilled for that inevitable process.
Finally, Stay on Top of the News
Last but not least, if you want to spot trends, you have to stay up to date on developments. Read tech news! Dig into industry reports. And do so with an open mind. Try to think about things from your customer’s point of view.
Also, consider things from your competitor’s point of view. How could they leverage a new development, for example, to gain an advantage over you? Once you figure that out, you may be able to develop competitive advantages yourself.
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