In a post late last fall, we asked how important are minitrends since they are, according to the author of Minitrends: How Innovators & Entrepreneurs Discover & Profit from Business & Technology Trends, often the leading indicators of emerging megatrends which can have a significant impact on business for decades. However, if the minitrend is, in actuality, a short-lived trend that is here-today and gone-tomorrow, then any attention paid to the matter might be a complete waste of time if you can’t adapt fast enough to take advantage of it.
In order to determine if a minitrend is important, we first have to detect it, and to do that, we have to better understand what a minitrend is. We start with a review of the book, which describes what a minitrend is; where to look for them; how to find them; what makes them attractive from an individual, small company and large company perspective; how to select one for exploitation, how to develop an exploitation scheme, and how to put the scheme into action.
According to the authors, John H. Vanston and Carrie Vanston, minitrends, which are emerging trends that promise to become significantly important within the next two to five years but which are not widely recognized or appreciated are important because, like precious gems, they have inherent value, require effort to uncover, entail processing to achieve their full value, and, can be very valuable to their discoverer.
In fact, a minitrend can be the basis of a billion dollar business. As an example, the authors explain how Dell and Southwest airlines took advantage of minitrends to establish new, successful, businesses that blossomed into billion dollar enterprises in a short time frame. They also explain how a number of other business, which are still growing, capitalized on minitrends to become multi-million dollar enterprises seemingly overnight.
A small to mid-sized company with low overhead and the flexibility and ability to move quickly is often in prime position to take advantage of an emerging mini-trend that relates to one of its areas of expertise. In comparison, large companies that have invested significant capital into certain markets and products are often in a poor position to take advantage of short-term trends and may feel motivated to ignore the trends in an effort to capitalize on their current investment, even though this can be a bad idea. For example, it was likely a failure to recognize emerging minitrends that brought down The Sharper Image and Circuit City and that led to recent hardships at Starbucks (which had to do significant layoffs a couple of years back) and General Motors.
So how do you find a minitrend? You apply a mix of the following strategies:
- Follow the Money
who will make money, who will lose money, and who will pay money — those who will pay are the customers, those who will make money are the crusaders (for the cause), and those who will lose are the defenders (of the old regime)
- Follow the Leaders
look for those who have non-conventional vision, who have influence, who move and shake, and who look to the future; Time’s 100 most important and Fortune’s most powerful, the Warren Buffets and T. Boone Pickens’ of the world, and the futurists like Raymond Kurzweil and Lawrence Vanston are prime candidates to identify emerging minitrends
- Examine Limits
there are three types of limits: physical, perceptual, and practical; the latter two are most important for minitrends (and any redefinition of the former would likely indicate the emergence of a megatrend) — when circumstances, public opinion, or driving forces alter a perceptive or practical limit, a minitrend can emerge
- Consider Human Nature
people want to establish meaningful long-term relationships, improve the lives of their children, and have top quality medical care — if different opportunities to satisfy these needs arise, minitrends often emerge
- Watch the Demographics
immigration, population shift, and birth rate all impact what may or may not emerge as a minitrend as differences in goals, expectations, and viewpoints exist between the various age groups
- Analyze Frustrations
anything that bothers a large group of people — like waiting in line at a bank, paying huge late fees on returns, or not getting value for their money — that can be improved offers a great opportunity for a minitrend to develop
- Search for Convergence
anywhere two distinct fields or technologies can meet presents an opportunity for a minitrend to emerge
Then, once you find identify a set of minitrends, you need to select one for exploitation, develop an exploitation strategy, put it into action, and capitalize on it. But before we get to that, we will discuss how to search for minitrends and present three minitrend examples to help you understand what you should look for as an individual, a small company, and a large company.