There’s no better way to ensure your value than to identify a trend and capitalize on it before your competitors get to the table. But how do you do this without a crystal ball or a time machine? Here are some suggestions for honing your sense of what’s coming next in your field.
Notice Systems That Are Broken
If a broken process or system affects enough people, they will start to complain – and loudly. When the noise gets too deafening, someone enterprising (hopefully you) will inevitably step in to fix the problem. A current example is online plagiarism. Right now, we can’t seem to stop people from copying the work of others and posting it on their own websites without attribution. Writers are getting pretty ticked off, and I think it’s reasonable to expect that within the next five years, a solution will be developed to prevent this type of fraud.
Pay Attention to Cocktail Conversation
Listen for topics that come up casually, over and over again, with different types of associates. From small but intriguing pieces of news to viral websites, the “have you heard about X?” share is a powerful predictor of what everyone will be talking about two weeks or two years from now. I still remember when Chicago implemented its new and highly controversial parking meter system. The conversational real estate on this subject has increased exponentially, and I’m betting that the negative buzz will eventually force a system overhaul.
Read Innovation Trades
Publications like The Futurist and Fast Company employ creative souls whose job it is to muse about critical societal advances. I recall reading in the late 1990s that company loyalty was beginning to decline and people were dissatisfied with their corporate jobs. From this, I surmised that in this decade, mid-life career change would be a huge trend, and indeed that has come to pass.
Travel Abroad and Observe Systems That Work
More often than not, global trends start out localized and spread out over time. The best predictor of how we will solve our problems is how another country has already addressed them successfully. For instance, in the last several years, there has been a huge backlash against American over-parenting. Author and ex-pat Pamela Druckerman saw that the French had implemented a completely different system that had children eating everything on their plates and behaving civilly in public. She grabbed the opportunity to write a massive bestseller advocating the French method to American parents.
Have you accurately foreseen any trends in your industry or in society at large? Was it by chance, or is there a method to the madness?