Every year kicks off with a number of “predictions for the year 20xx” articles and posts as if in some way, the world hits a reset button at midnight on New Year’s Eve and faces a fresh start every calendar year.
But as Heraclitus said “change is the only constant in life” and even if your financial calendar did (unusually) coincide with the start and end of the calendar year – so what?
Many of the predictions might be completely irrelevant to you and your industry or company and even if they are relevant, nobody knows your business better than you do yourself. You should be constantly monitoring events around you and not waiting on annual predictions of trends to lead your strategy – you should be scanning the horizon for things that will impact you, your industry, your suppliers, your customers and society in general and you should constantly be considering the implications of what you find and factoring these into everything that you do.
Irrespective of what job title I have been assigned in the past, tracking trends and their implications has always been a core requirement for me to have the greatest impact in my role and I constantly have people asking me how I do what I do. I have pointed out in the past that it’s not rocket science but this time around I thought I’d be a bit more helpful:-
as an Innovation Catalyst
I look for changes in TIPS
To find your TIPS:-
- as an absolute minimum across all of the above categories, you should be following influencers, thought leaders, publications, consultancies, agencies publications and press on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, direct subscriptions via newsletters and RSS feeds etc. I read / watch / listen as much as I can every day – the amount of time varies with the commute – occasional transport disruptions providing a bit more time than usual to engage in this……….
- attend events – I pick a few events each year and have a couple that I like to return to regularly. I attend in “reporter” mode as though I am going on behalf of one of my favourite publications and need to gather and interpret what I see for a diverse audience – I only “filter” what I have seen after I get back otherwise I end up attending with a cognitive bias that would render me blind to potential opportunities. (A case in point here – a former colleague and I attended the same event. A week afterwards, his boss said to me “oh, I hear the event was a total waste of time – not worth attending at all” – his jaw dropped as I proceeded to rattle off a list of interesting opportunities that I had identified for us to explore and explained how the event had triggered a number of innovative ideas. The difference between my colleague and I was that he went to the event looking for things that fell into his preconceived ideas of what he was looking for whereas I went with an open mind …….)
- attend events outside the industry you’re currently working in – I know this is a difficult one to justify to your boss – but many industry specific events consist of pure navel gazing and sometimes don’t challenge thinking as if there is one area you should know best it’s your own industry – but what about your suppliers and your customers – for example, if you work in financial services, get to a retail event and understand the challenges of your customers – this will provide you insights you seldom get at financial services events
- network and get involved with communities of interest to learn off the mistakes and successes of others
- attend, participate or run your own ideation events or hackathons – innovation does not (always) equate to “invention” and even participating in these events will open your mind to potential opportunities for you to do things differently
- track patent registrations by your competitors, suppliers and customers for an early indication of the possible changes to come
- follow the activity of incubators, accelerators, VC’s and angel investors
- get involved in the startup community by offering pro-bono mentoring and advice – you will reap rich rewards from the early exposure to concepts and ideas being implemented by startups
While you are doing the above, continuously ask yourself 3 questions:-
- What? is going on in each category
- So what? are the implications to society, industry and the individuals within
- Now what? should you be doing about it
If you stay on top of your TIPS, you won’t have any need for the annual predictions as you will be too busy Igniting Innovation Initiatives and building the future that other people are trying to predict!
(Of course, if you need help with any of the above you could just hire me to do it all for you!)
*** UPDATE ***
Following the publication of this post, I’ve had numerous enquiries for further information and structure in order to help people establish their own Horizon Scanning activities. As a result, I’ve created a tool for you to use – more information can be found here.