During the course of one’s professional career, the thought crosses their mind that, “I wish I could just work for myself,” or they take a look at a product, service, or process and state, “there has got to be a better way.
Nearly every day, an individual with that inkling takes the leap into entrepreneurship, hoping to positively disrupt an industry, make a difference in the world, or become the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, to be remembered for something they created that did not exist before them.
Starting a business or inventing something disruptive can be a risky endeavor; however, as I teach frequently in my Anticipatory Leader System, innovation based on certainty is low-risk, whereas innovation based on uncertainty is high-risk. But how does a new entrepreneur differentiate between low- and high-risk endeavors?
They’re actually differentiating between Hard Trends and Soft Trends, where Hard Trends are future certainties that will happen and Soft Trends are future possibilities that are open to influence. With these, an Anticipatory Leader paints a picture for themselves of what will happen in this world, how those certainties will disrupt industries, and what they can do to leverage those disruptions to their advantage. This methodology makes innovation and entrepreneurship in general a far more low-risk endeavor.
Using my Hard Trend Methodology to establish a low-risk environment for innovation takes practice, and one of the better ways to practice this is by mastering the concept of cycles. Let’s explore a few cycles we come across in our everyday lives that help with identifying Hard Trends.
First, consider the fact that tomorrow will come. Can you say with complete certainty that the sun will, in fact, rise in the east tomorrow? Barring any major change in the Earth’s rotation, tomorrow’s sunrise is a recurring future certainty; a Hard Trend!
When that inevitable sunrise wakes you up, it is likely that you will be hungry for breakfast. After starting your day with a meal, it is a future certainty that you will, indeed, be hungry for lunch, and then, eventually, hungry for dinner. This cycle then repeats indefinitely; it is a cycle that keeps you nourished and healthy.
How about the biological life cycle of a human being? If a child is born today, they will grow up, and continue to age every day. Aging is a Hard Trend; however, no matter how long one’s life is, not a single living thing on this planet has taken a sip out of a proverbial fountain of youth, where they cease to age, making this a recurring cycle of life.
These likely seem simple when you read them; however, my purpose for writing this is to give you a launchpad to identify more complex cycles that are integral in developing transformative business ideas. While most individuals take cycles for granted, the Anticipatory entrepreneur views these occurrences more exponentially.
Future certainties have future possibilities, or Soft Trends, that are open to influence. Looking at the aforementioned cycles that happen every day, we can quite easily identify the Soft Trends that come in tow. An individual that grows hungry throughout the day is a Hard Trend, but what they’re craving is a Soft Trend open to influence by your specialty food truck parked near their place of employment.
The Hard Trend that every individual born eventually grows up brings with it a multitude of Soft Trends, such as what each generation prefers in the way of clothing, entertainment choices, purchasing patterns, and so forth. And finally, the sun rising every day brings unlimited Soft Trends if you think about it! How many different occurrences in your everyday life are open to influence?
After a mastery in the basic understanding of everyday cycles and where Hard Trends and Soft Trends make appearances in our daily lives, identifying these same occurrences in business and industries becomes second nature to an Anticipatory entrepreneur.
Cycles are largely rooted in patterns of behaviors. When we focus on different generations that have buying power, such as Baby Boomers, Millennials, and even Generation Z, we start to discover just how cyclical their spending habits are to their generational predecessors.
For example, I have referenced in the past about how, in the eighties, the debut of the minivan was in large part because Baby Boomers were beginning to have families and did not want to emulate their parents by buying the station wagon of years gone by. Therefore, Dodge recognized this and introduced the minivan – a new type of family transport never before seen.
Now that millennials not only have their own buying power, but are also starting to have their own families, the Hard Trend becomes clear: generations will get married, have children, and need a family vehicle. The Soft Trend is also evident: what they want is open to influence.
Automobile manufacturers used these principles of my Anticipatory Organization Model to recognize the Hard Trend that younger generations would grow up and eventually have families of their own, and duly noted the cycle that they, too, would likely reject the notion of driving their families around in a minivan.
Soon, you saw clear evidence of heeding the Soft Trend of what they would prefer to drive, and now we have a plethora of crossover vehicles that embody both the sleekness of a coupe and the convenience of an SUV.
Learning to master understanding cycles coupled with implementing my Hard Trend Methodology brings a level of low-risk certainty to every entrepreneur, whether new to business, or trying to stay ahead of disruptions of any kind. The only real way to “maintain the status quo,” so to speak, is to use anticipation to become a positive disruptor, setting the status quo.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.