- Discovering the Future Needs and Wants of your Marketplace
By Joe Giordano
In 1998, as I was moving to Chicago for a new job, I picked up Tom Peters’ “Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for Management Revolution.” I was starting my first senior level job, taking over a senior operations role with corporate p&l responsibilities and departmental management. I was looking for some inspiration—to do things a little differently than before.
At the time, this book was 11 years into its print run, touted as Tom Peters’ summa on management and change. Ironically, it was published the same day one of the single most chaotic happenstances in American financial history. It was a huge disruption on October 19, 1987 that inflicted disorder within every business across the nation.
The book was written with the perspective that turmoil requires nothing short of a management revolution. Everything that we know today about management (and managing and leading) will be challenged within the next 15 years, and everything from the last 15 years has already been challenged. The relative predictability of the past was vanishing and, according to Peters, “requiring organizations and managers to embrace flexibility and a total love of change.”
Peters accurately predicted that “Chaos and rapid change were becoming inevitable, and that the winners of the future would deal proactively with chaos, seeing it as a source of market advantage, not a problem to be ignored.”
As I sit here writing this blog post, I reflect on the past 15 years of what doing business has meant and the 3 key trends to be mindful of:
– Cultural or Social: Business leaders need to constantly assess the impact of social contagion. i.e. “…that conduct or beliefs spread among people, as fads and trends clearly do, with “the probability of any individual adopting it increasing with the proportion who have already done so”. As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence.” source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandwagon_effect
– Economic: The overall direction in which a nation’s (or global) economy is moving. Business leaders need to be aware of the prevailing direction of the economic trend for the product markets and countries in which they operate in order to make more accurate and effective plans for their company.
– Technological: We are a technology obsessed culture, for the most part, and business leaders need to constantly stay in front of the current demand for technology.
Consumers, customers, clients, and employees are all influenced by these trends, which in turn impact our organizations. Not staying aware of these changes results in products, services, and leadership practices that are stale and lack impact.
Increasingly, today’s chaos can become part of tomorrow’s everyday business practices. So to truly be disruptive in tomorrow’s marketplace we need to be creative amidst today’s chaos.
Creativity in this context is what we call Foresight: Creatively discovering the longer term future needs and wants of the marketplace (both internally and externally), going beyond our understanding and insights of the marketplace today. We can then discover where the profound future opportunities may lie in order to proactively and strategically invent the future before it happens—not waiting 15 years for it to reveal itself.
Developing insights on today’s marketplace needs to include current trend analysis, current market research, and other techniques. In order to develop a foresight into the future market place needs, we need to create a future view that includes Cultural, Economic, and Technical trends and the impact that they will have on us not in the near future, but a creative view of the distant future (5-20 years from now).
We can, through analytical methods, discern above the surface needs of today and tomorrow—needs and wants that are conscious and quite evident. However, the below-the-surface needs and wants and the subconscious drivers and motivators of the future need to be discerned through creative methods such as Alternative Future Scenario Creation, Blue Ocean, TRIZ, and other futurist processes that help dig into the creativity of the organization.
To keep ahead of Tom Peters’ 15-year cycle we need to establish a constant insight on our marketplace—the deep motivations on why people behave and what they need, want, and believe in the current context and environment. Subsequently, we need to continually be developing Foresight (future insights) into deep motivations on why people behave and reflect what people WILL need, WILL want, and WILL believe in the future context. To be creative amidst the chaos:
– Keep pulsing your marketplace. Have formal and informal knowledge harvesting to get the information right from your customers and your employees. Create insight into both your consumers AND your employees and use them to guide your leadership and management of your business.
– Do something with the information you get and don’t dismiss any of it. If it doesn’t fit into today’s context, it doesn’t mean the data is irrelevant for tomorrow’s needs (just think mobile), explore what it could mean.
– Engage. Use your consumers as drivers of the work. Tap into the latent creativity of consumers to help create the future products and services. Additionally, let your employees define and enable their tomorrow. Greater engagement means a greater commitment to implementation and success.