Brace yourself for it: the click bait posts will be coming to your inbox soon, with titles like, “The Top Ten Trends to Watch in 2017”, or “Don’t Miss These Three for 2023.” Why do marketing and consulting firms amplify these and deluge us with them like clockwork every year?
Peter Drucker gives us a clue:
“The earlier changes are discerned, the earlier the opportunities they create can be converted into innovations.” (From Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship)
Soon our inboxes will be stuffed with Analytics, Big Data, IOT and Energy related trend lists, and for most firms, they are a waste of valuable time. The truth is that all of these reports (even the well-researched ones) are like bread cast on the water, hoping for the ducks to show up. The Drucker quote above gives us a clue as to why this can be a huge time sink and how to solve it, i.e. “converted into innovation.” When Drucker used the word innovation, he meant ideas that were built into profitable new products and services.
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Our marketing brethren know full well that planners are on a constant prowl to make sure that there isn’t a missed inflection point, so they send out the trend reports, knowing that they can develop “expert mindshare” for their firms. Preying on FOMO, they use the visionary’s leader propensity to chase the new and shiny as a mindshare tool.
Each reader wants to make sure that they have either an early advantage or are not left behind, and in so misses the second portion of the Drucker quote that refers to innovation conversion:
“Savvy growth leaders understand that trends only get interesting when they find specific market application in business cases that fit our capability.”
Gartner provides a perspective on whether an idea is ready for prime time annually in their ubiquitous hype cycle for emerging technologies. (fascinating side exercise, pull these for the last four years, above and here, here and here and compare…the forecasted points do move both forward and backward).
So how do growth leaders avoid being taken in by the enticing shiny objects being rolled past them every year?
By employing three key disciplines, the growth leader can pick and choose the trend vectors that are relevant and profitable for their firm, at this time, with their capabilities.
Using my complete growth leader framework, the journeyman growth leader is watching for alignment in market opportunity, operational capability and a business case that merits the investment.
First, it all starts with a good customer-based use case. Market windows are found by listening carefully across a variety of information pathways. In my workshops and coaching, we talk about customer service, quality, advanced marketing, shows and conferences in adjacent categories and first person observations as ways to get at emergent customer and market needs.
Early on pain and inconvenience are a great surrogate for value.
Secondly, growth leaders keep an eye on their in-house operations capability. Every firm of scale has a repeatable engine of delivery, and growth leaders not only are keen observers, they are students and admirers of that capability. They have great relationships with operations leaders, understand which parts of the system can flex and those that cannot. For instance, if a manufacturing firm is tooled up to handle mechanical assembly, introducing a chemical process is a very big deal (I can share my bruises on this one).
Growth Leaders are great students of the firm’s production capability
Third and finally, Growth Leaders are students of trends, not in a static way, but looking at the rate of change in their coming to fruition. I have watched materials trends that took decades to meet their initial promise (e.g. see history of GaaS). What is way more interesting than the trend hype is the rate of convergence to practical utility. (for the engineers in the crowd, we are talking about the second derivative)
Trend reports are only interesting when viewed like a time lapse photography series to see what’s getting closer and what’s moving away
Growth leaders are constantly building this three legged stool, and looking for that moment that one of the three ingredients (market, production engine or technology) has found a tipping point and become commercially viable. In keeping their heads and choosing their investment points carefully, they save their firms large amounts of time, money and disillusioned team members.
If you resonated with this discussion and would like to explore ways to build more robust strategy via workshop, find and enhance internal growth leader talent through coaching, or activate that just right project, team and plan, please send me a note or give me a call at 847-651-1014.
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