I'm sure all of you are convinced that your new business will create the next trend and ride the wave to success, but the reality is that most startups fail. Anticipating future trends is clearly harder than it seems. In my experience, it takes more than a gut feel, so predicting breakthrough changes and new trends is a skill that must be learned, and made part of your business process.
For example, Lyft and Uber were able to capitalize on the current ride-sharing trend worldwide by tracking statistics that indicated reduced interest in car ownership by millennials, lack of parking spaces, and auto ownership costs moving up rapidly.
Others pivoted quickly based on customer need changes, rather than just spending more money on advertising and charging ahead.
If you want to join the ranks of entrepreneurs and businesses who have a reputation for being ahead of the pack, for being an initiator rather than a follower, such as Apple and Nike, here are five key strategies and skills to develop that I recommend and practice:
1. Develop a mindset of constant change required to thrive.
As a mentor to business owners, I still see many praying for the day when things stabilize, their processes are working, and they can relax and enjoy business growth. As Andy Grove famously wrote, "Only the paranoid survive." Accept and act as if the only world constant is change.
One way to adapt your mindset to appreciate change is to reflect more on those cases where change has made your personal life better. Your new car is a pleasure to drive, online shopping takes out the pain, and social media makes connection to old friends fun.
2. Spend more time outside the business, looking for trends.
Smart entrepreneurs continually test their perceptions against those of customers, outside leaders, and experts.
They actually search for indications of change and opportunities across diverse environments, rather than just more customers who might use their current offerings.
Get out of the office to visit real customers, attend industry conferences, and network with peers and influencers. You will find it amazing how much your perspective will improve as you establish relationships and really listen to others. Learning can be fun and profitable.
3. Continually initiate experiments to test before committing.
Many established businesses are so confident of their brand power that they commit huge amounts to change initiatives that are untested and possibly wrong. No one has perfect insight, and things change so quickly that business rollout trials should be your norm to test change.
Even the smartest entrepreneurs have found that a well-designed market experiment will test a number of different hypothesis and variables at once, without a major investment, proving bad assumptions as well as validated ones as the experiment goes on.
4. Focus on agility as the key skill your organization needs.
This starts with strong leadership and communication on your part, but it has to extend into the training, decision making, and reward systems that you foster.
The ability of you and your team to move quickly when change happens will set your outcome with customers and competitors.
As a first step toward faster decisions and agility, practice applying the 80/20 Principle to your thinking. In most situations, you can gather 80 percent of the relevant information in the first 20 percent of the time available. The rest does not often improve decision quality.
5. Spend more time on long-term strategy than daily crises.
I still see many businesses who let current challenges lead them on a random walk into or out of the future. You need to build a vision of the future that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, this vision must be continually tuned by new customer trends and technology arrivals.
Your team and your customers will be more responsive when they feel a sense of purpose and direction, and they can provide better feedback. Patagonia are Airbnb are examples of businesses that put their purpose first, and are leaders in change as a result.
Even though none of us can really see around corners, it helps to overtly hone your business acumen to see bends in the road before others.
With that, and the courage to accelerate towards these curves as opportunities, rather than slowing down to put up a defense, you too can be perceived as a leader, rather than a follower, in today's ever-changing but ever-growing market.