Futurist “someone who studies the future and makes predictions based on current trends”
As business owners we all know that the world is changing at breakneck speed. With a 24-hour news cycle we witness events around us, and around the world, that seem to shift on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. For the most part, we have to admit that there’s little we can do about some event happening half a world away. But what about events that directly affect our business and personal lives? What if by becoming better disciplined in your research you could more accurately predict the trends that will impact your business?
Imagine the business edge becoming a futurist would give you over your competitors. Having the answers to important industry issues and trends in advance gives you a powerful business tool.
Bear in mind that even if you decide to become a futurist, you’ll never always get it right. If you could, you’d be the biggest (and wealthiest) player in the stock market. But there’s lots of evidence that shows you will have planning tools far more sophisticated than your competition. Even the smallest commitment to futurism will put you way ahead of the game because the majority of your competitors work purely on a day-to-day basis with little or no planning strategy.
The 4 by 4 strategy
Decide on four trends that could impact your business and limit your research to those items. Then find four sources of answers and trend-watchers on each of those issues. They might be business associations, government agencies, industry pundits, or magazines.
Ask yourself a series of questions, depending upon your business niche. For example:
One often-overlooked approach is to join a national network or association in your industry. They usually have the budget to have full time researchers or economists on staff. For your annual membership fee, you should have access to their research – and in some cases, they’ll answer your specific inquiries.
Most futurists put a lot of stock on a site called Google Scholar.
This free database contains thousands of academic and research papers on just about every imaginable subject. Just insert some key words on any topic of interest and you’ll see masses of listings on that subject. Two tips; always check the date on the citation so that you know it’s current and go straight to the executive summary or abstract, so you get the brief overview without struggling through pages of sometimes boring material.
Don’t overlook trade magazines. Reporters are often asking the same questions that you would ask of the experts as to future trends.
Try to devote an hour once a week to review your results and at least a few minutes to contemplate any actions you might take in light of the information you have harvested.
Think about the importance of trend-watching by looking at those who didn’t. What happened to dentists and the elimination of cavities; printers of telephone books; the tobacco industry who didn’t foresee the reduction in smokers; and Kodak who never saw the coming of the digital age?
Don’t join those who failed to read the obvious signs of the future.