Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeremy Gutsche for a chat about trend hunting, instant entrepreneurship, social business, Unlabelling, Exploiting Chaos and 150 ways to innovate in times of change.
For those who do not know Jeremy, he is a Canadian which makes him a kindred soul of Aussies. He is an entrepreneur and founder of trendhunter.com, which has just clocked up 1 billion impressions and, is the no.1 crowdsourcing vehicle for trend spotting.
He is a highly sought after Key note speaker in North America, the 2011 BDC Young Entrepreneur, Ontario, Canada and is frequently sourced by the media for his opinions on the next big thing.
Interestingly, he made an observation that I found quite startling. Not only did he say you cannot predict the future, but that if you do, you will extrapolate the present and end up in the same place as your competitors.
He also said when the world changes, so do the answers and, that there has never been a better time to start a business and capitalise on the opportunity and exploit the chaos of today.
Here is a transcript of our conversation for your reading. Plus there’s a secret he’d like to share from his Keynote address from Australian Chambers Business Congress 2012, held in Melbourne last week.
In the top 20 trends for 2012 you identify three that are of interest to our readers, can you please elaborate a bit more on the following:
With the advances in technology including social media, the internet, outsourcing, out tasking and crowdsourcing, it’s never been easier for an entrepreneur to start a business. They can be up and running with logos and websites over a weekend. Of course, this makes it easier for the entrepreneurs to chip away at the larger organisations and, it can be seen as both a threat and an opportunity to larger organisations.
Our term here for ‘social business’ is business with positive intent. It doesn’t mean that they are necessarily non for profit organisations.
We have set up a dedicated website to track these businesses trends www.socialbusiness.org A good example of a social business is Toms http://www.toms.com/ where they will literally give a pair of shoes to a child in need or a pair of glasses to a person in need for every pair bought.
Where in the past we saw social business perhaps as predicated on ecological, organic or buying local, now we are seeing Social Business. With Social Business, the promise built into the product or service business value proposition with a very clear promise to the consumer to deliver on that promise.
We live in a very media cluttered world. With increased social media use, people are looking for simplicity. A good example of that would be Apple vs. Microsoft. If you compare a box of Windows software with an equivalent Apple product, you will notice the simplicity and minimal use of logo, packaging and design.
In your book Exploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation during times of Change, you say, “Don’t let the monkeys inhibit change”. Can you please describe that and, how strongly it applies in established and growing organisations?
When the world changes, so does the answers. In a period of great change, like we are experiencing today, you cannot apply your old structures and processes to the problems and opportunities of tomorrow.
Some good examples of this are Smith & Corona who, despite being the ‘best in the world’, failed to adapt through change or capitalise on the changes taking place at a faster pace around them.
It is interesting to note the surprises of where your customers are coming from or, going to, in times of change.
For example, the GM Cadillac Escalade was a hit with the hip hop crowd despite being targeted at affluent males over 45 years old. When I asked the head of GM design how he created this success and, if he put the car in product placement in hip hop songs, he replied that it was an accident. However, he also went a step further to find out more about his new customer. He went into a dangerous neighbourhood in downtown Detroit, and hitched a ride with a young man in an Escalade as he went about his days’ work. He could have asked his design team for a report or, commissioned a research company but, instead he put himself beside the new customer and sought to discover why the Escalade was being picked up by the hip hop crowd.
Trend hunting is predicated on tracking the cool or, unlocking the trends for businesses to grow. Yet, in your book you note it’s impossible and impractical to predict the future. Can you explain a bit more what you mean and how business owners and entrepreneurs can get to the future first and capitalise on the opportunities from trend hunting?
If you try to predict the future you will end up picking the status quo and landing on known facts from today. Things like the rise of female purchasing power, the rise of China, the rise of social media, for example. Your competitors will also being seeing and doing this and, you will end up in similar places to your competition. You really need to focus in on the 1-3 year horizon and look for the bubbles of opportunity for new products that maybe niche now but, you can capitalise on them before you competition.
There is a lot of talk about ‘insights’, ‘trends’ and ‘unmet needs’ when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship. How do you define these words and the distinct differences between them when businesses explore, ideate or discover opportunity?
We describe trends as innovations and ideas that are captivating and, that people want to share.
An insight is when you can profit from it.
An ‘unmet need’ is the Holy Grail where you can innovate and drive success through ‘unmet needs’.
Recognising, ‘unmet needs’ are hard to find and uncover. A simple starting place for many companies is looking at the trends now and, applying insights to your own company how you can profit from those trends today. For example, how many brand managers really intimately understand how Facebook and Twitter work? How many simply hand that over to their agency to handle?
Lastly, a common human reaction is fear of uncertainty.
Whenever chaos exists, so does opportunity. Many great companies were founded during recessions and periods of great uncertainty including Apple, Microsoft, and Fortune magazine.
Australia is well positioned to capitalise on the chaos and change and opportunity that presents itself.
Dermott Dowling is a strategic, innovative, business professional with a passion for building great brands, businesses and teams. He is the founding Director @Creatovate.