In Part I we began our discussion and review of Minitrends: How Innovators & Entrepreneurs Discover & Profit from Business & Technology Trends because minitrends, which are often the leading indicators of emerging megatrends, can be very vaulable to their discoverer in the short term and, sometimes, provide the foundations for new billion dollar enterprises. Starting by noting that a minitrend is an emerging trend that promises to become significantly important in the next two to five years but which is not widely recognized or appreciated, we noted that minitrends are doubly important because failure to recognize them could also lead to the downfall of a billion dollar organization.
We then indicated that a mini-trend can often be identified by applying a mix of the following seven strategies:
- Follow the Money
- Follow the Leaders
- Examine Limits
- Consider Human Nature
- Watch the Demographics
- Analyze Frustrations
- Search for Convergence
So where do you begin your search? According to the authors, you:
- Utilize Public Sources
start with printed material including books, periodicals, and newspapers and use editorial assists to scan for the most relevant sources
- Utilize Electronic Sources
as more and more print goes online and more and more electronic search tools become available
- Engage Key Associations
and the membership that might have insights into emerging trends
- Establish Social Networks
both physical and virtual to get exposed to a wide range of ideas and opinions
- Identify Experts
and engage with them in thought-provoking and informative manners
- Examine Patents and Patent Applications
especially recent patents and applications
- Review PhD publications
from top schools and labs in particular
- Pay Heed to Television
and the educational and technology oriented networks like the Discovery Channel, History Channel, Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, and the Smithsonian Channel in particular
- Examine the Platforms of Losing Presidential Candidates
often ahead of their time, they often come back with a life of their own in the near to mid term
The right mix of printed sources, electronic sources, assocations, social networks, experts, patents, and tv documentaries will often yield a multitude of potential minitrends to the emerging eye. So how do you know when you have a good one? Based on my review of the nine minitrends presented in the book, a good trend will be easy to understand, improve upon a current situation or offering, and present a viable business opportunity. The following examples exemplify this:
Example 1: Support for People Working at Home
Given that as much as 25% of white collar work is now being done in private residences by people who take advantage of flex time, telecommuting, and self employment opportunities, this is a valuable minitrend for anyone who can help overcome the (perceived disadvantages), such as the loss of nearby coworkers to bounce ideas off of, the lack of (high-end) office facilities and equipment, and administrative support. This is why we’ve seen a rise in business hotspots such as Starbucks, Hubs, and rooms you can rent by the day or hour; e-fax capabilities and business centers at office supply stores; and virtual receptionists / virtual office locations.
This trend is easy to understand, associated offerings improve upon a current situation in one or more ways, and the offerings present a viable business opportunity as many self-employed individuals or virtual small companies will take advantage of services designed to help them succeed.
Example 2: Evolution of Meaningful Maturity
For a variety of reasons, be it financial situation, desire for daily human contact, a continued ambition to do something useful, or an inability to just sit still, the aging populace is staying in the workplace longer, but not always in a traditional full-time 9 to 5 role. Also, many enterprises are starting to recognize the importance of the wisdom in their aging workforce and the need to explicitly capture the implicit knowledge in their heads. Furthermore, appropriate mind training can often enhance the mental actuity of the aging workforce and add years to their employment effectiveness. Thus, any advance that will improve knowledge capture, increase the useful life span of the aging workforce, or enable flexible work arrangements will have value and sustain the minitrend.
This trend is also easy to understand, dictates the need for services that improve the well being of the people involved as well as the organizations, and offers a number of viable business models that small businesses can adopt to be successful in one or more markets.
Example 3: Advances in Digital Manufacturing
Accompanying the improvements in thermoplastics, ceramics, semiconductors, and pharmaceuticals that we take for granted on a daily basis are improvements in the underlying manufacturing technology including stereolithography, selective laser sintering, shape deposition manufacturing, 3D printing, bioplotting, and layer object modelling that, combined, define an overall trend of continuing advances in digital manufacturing.
While the technical specifics may be beyond the average person, when one looks at the continued advances in consumer devices and pharmaceuticals, one can understand that there must be a corresponding advance in manufacturing techniques, even though one may not know what it is. In addition, one can see that any organization that can create a better manufacturing technology or process can advance the mini-trend and create a viable business selling the advancement to large corporations that rely on such technology. Thus, this is also a good minitrend to take advantage of if you are able.
So, now that you know how to find minitrends and identify good ones, how do you select one for exploitation, develop an exploitation strategy, put it into action, and capitalize on it? That’s the subject of the third and final post in this mini-series reviewing Minitrends: How Innovators & Entrepreneurs Discover & Profit from Business & Technology Trends.