I first met Dorie Clark (@dorieclark) [link] about two years ago and was immediately impressed with her intellect and her energy. She is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business [link]. I helped to introduce her to IE Business School here in Madrid, Spain, [link], where she is now an adjunct faculty member. She is also one of our NextSensors [link]! A short while ago, we both taught in the “Women On Boards” program co-sponsored by IE and WimBiz [link], a women-in-business public service created to help women entrepreneurs and based in Nigeria. You may have read her first book, Reinventing You [link]. Just this week, Dorie published a new book that is both fun to read and extremely helpful to anyone who wants to boost their personal profile. Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It [link] not only ties into nextsensing, it also provides helpful information about how to promote new ideas in the best possible ways. I’m now enjoying her book and hope you enjoy her guest post.
Just about everyone can see the really big picture. The Internet is becoming more important every day. Mobile computing will decimate desktops. India’s and China’s economies are expanding dramatically. Yes . . . and what does any of it mean for us? We know the wave is coming, but how do we make use of that information? How can we prepare to succeed in the new economy? Too many people pontificate about what’s happening now, and don’t shed any light on the implications moving forward. So how do you actually know what’s next?
In my new book, I discuss the importance of staying close to the ground, where research and innovations take place. You can only learn so much by reading newspapers and getting secondhand information. Instead, it’s your time in the trenches — talking with those on the front lines and seeing things for yourself — that will help you understand.
Robert Scoble, a technology opinion leader, makes a point of getting firsthand information. “Figure out how to get as close to the research labs as possible,” he says. He’s become a recognised authority on subjects as diverse as blogging, Google Glass, and Bluetooth low energy radio not because he invented any of them (he didn’t) but because he knew their creators, avidly followed the technologies’ progress, used them, and wrote and spoke about them. “I’m always looking to meet people who are doing deep research,” he says.
Of course, many industries don’t have research labs, per se, but they all have equivalents, places where new insights are most likely to arise. You may want to track certain think tanks or universities. Maybe the end users or front line staff in your industry can shed light on emerging trends. Track where the most important advances have come from in the past few years, and you’ll understand who you need to be watching to see what’s coming.
You’ll have a particular advantage if, like Robert, you can find out about emerging developments in the early stages, before they become mainstream. Perhaps you could make a point of attending conferences where new innovations are talked about, reading industry journals, or simply keeping in close touch with colleagues who are “in the know”. However you do it, one of the best ways to develop a reputation as an authority in your field is by staying on top of trends, informing others about them, and sharing your take on what they mean and how we should adapt.
Here are several questions you can ask yourself to begin to get a look at what’s next (and if you’d like even more, you can download my free workbook, “139 Questions to Help You Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It” [link]).
- What are three trends shaping your industry? Are they short-term or fundamental? How would you describe them to an outsider unfamiliar with your field?
- In the coming years, how will those trends change the status quo?
- What should smart companies or individuals do in order to thrive in the future? How should they prepare? What steps should they take?
- Are there companies or entities that have handled change particularly well? What can you learn from their example?
- What innovations or new developments do you know about that most others do not?
- Where is the locus of innovation in your field? Particular regions or companies or divisions or think tanks? How can you ensure that you stay close to the work they’re doing?
We can never predict the future exactly, of course. But by regularly questioning assumptions and asking the right questions, we can be as prepared as possible to understand emerging trends and jump on opportunities.