Those who track trends have to possess some rare kind of intuition. It’s actually quite easy to do. Observing the world around you, with an open mind, is something many professionals have unlearned, but it’s something that we’re all born with. Basically, if you want to spot and understand trends, you can.
So be curious and be open minded: while we’re all set in our own ways, and we have our strict beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, closely observing instead of judging the world around you is tantamount to success. Ask yourself ‘why’ whenever you notice something new, instead of immediately looking for shortcomings.
Your professional interests should be broader than your personal interests. You may not be excited by something new, but others are. Ask yourself why they are excited and which existing need has apparently been unlocked. In other words, think and act like an entrepreneurial journalist. How?
Look cross-industry | what you really want to hear about is trends affecting your industry or sector. The thing is, innovative / ground-breaking / bar-raising customer experiences may well be happening in industries other than your own. Sticking with your own industry will thus not only severely limit your sources of inspiration, but will also make you miss important changes in consumer expectations.
if you’re obsessed with what your competition is doing, you will always end up copying them. To become a trend setter, you need to look where your competition is not:
• Think like a (paranoid) CEO, even if you don’t get paid like one. We all need to be a specialist in something. However, we also need to be generalists, to understand the big picture (from macro trends to consumer trends to industry trends) and how we and our company and products fit in.
• You don’t have to like every trend: Who may have different needs and desires than you do. So never dismiss anything too quickly. Just because you would never use a certain innovation, doesn’t mean others (your customers included) won’t buy it either. Many of today’s success stories, from smart phones to Twitter/Facebook to the Airbus 380, were widely dismissed, questioned, and ridiculed from the day they were imagined, announced or conceived.
• So instead of dismissing, ask questions. Non stop. Why is something happening? Why was it introduced? Why do consumers like it? Or why do they hate it? Look beyond the sources that appeal to your personal tastes.
• Try stuff out.
• Get rid of taboos, prejudices, dogmatism, negativity. All of this will severely block your ability to pick up new ideas, to understand your customers, and will thus cost you money. (Hey, it will make you a more pleasant person, too.)