More often than not, many businesses and organizations I work with view it as difficult or even impossible to foresee problems before they occur in our unpredictable world.
In many ways, the circumstances we faced during the coronavirus pandemic were really nothing new. Sure, we may have never experienced this level of uncertainty before but being ahead of the curve by implementing my Anticipatory Organization Model and understanding what we can be certain about using my Hard Trend Methodology is always applicable.
Many start their business or career looking to change the world or their industry, but they do not know where to start.
Having helped organizations with future planning and innovation for several decades, I applied personal experience and extensive research to develop a methodology for separating Hard Trends, which are future certainties that will happen, with Soft Trends, or future possibilities that are open to influence.
Hard Trends cannot be changed while Soft Trends can. Understanding this allows you to see problems before they occur and pre-solve them, allowing you to redefine risk management and boldly innovate with relatively low risk. Conversely, just because Soft Trends may or may not happen does not mean that they won’t happen; they are just not a future fact.
During the pandemic, we witnessed people largely embracing an agile mindset to deal with the accelerating pace of exponential technological change, solely playing defense.
Instead, we should be shifting our mindset to one of anticipation, where you implement both a good offense and defense in your business strategies. The playing field has been leveled for many thanks to the pandemic, and most of us got quite comfortable in being agile.
While agility is important, you need to be anticipatory and play offense as well. Can you think of any championship sports team that literally won using only defense, where the offense never once took the field? Absolutely not!
Even the best competitors still had to score points by disrupting the opponent’s defense, and that’s what an anticipatory mindset is all about! There are several Soft Trends we cannot fully predict, but there are thousands of fully predictable Hard Trends you can see and use them to your advantage.
Hard Trends are interlaced in all of our daily lives, business operations, and even our hobbies. That may sound overwhelming; however, they are more predictable than you realize.
Here are the three categories of Hard Trends I have identified in my research:
Over the years, I have mentioned the Hard Trend of our aging population of Baby Boomers in the United States. However, let’s consider the younger generations becoming parents and their children. The Hard Trend here is that said new children are born every day, as it is unlikely that no new children will be born, and a Soft Trend is the toys their children find enjoyable.
During the coronavirus pandemic, technology trends accelerated by five to 10 years in just a matter of months. Cloud computing, e-commerce and working remotely are just a few examples of this as we all were forced to change. In total, the pandemic has accelerated 16 technology trends far beyond an exponential level, revealing several new opportunities.
Every country has government regulations, and they are ever-evolving. Will many industries have more confusion because of changing regulations? Yes, so perhaps developing an artificial intelligence–related mobile compliance app that lets you know the latest rules based on your GPS location for each task is an essential opportunity.
In addition to understanding future certainties and future possibilities, the concepts of change are part of my Hard Trend Methodology as well.
Cyclical change is more or less a future certainty. The stock market is extremely cyclical; when things go down, they are sure to go back up. These are easy to understand and even easier to predict.
On the other hand, linear change only happens once and transforms the world in one direction. Identifying linear change is what my anticipatory mindset is all about, as it only occurs once, such as the creation of the smartphone that disrupted all other types of telecommunication.
When linear change becomes exponential, it is driven by technology, riding a curve that’s accelerating and predictable. Additionally, exponential linear change can impact and even alter old cycles, vitally connecting both types of change.
We should strive to understand our place in a world with technology. Technology is not good or evil; it merely exists in a vacuum. How we as humans apply it defines the application of said technology.
One of the things that I’m urging people to do is to positively shape the future rather than passively receive it. Not only can you leverage exponential technological change to your advantage, but you can use it to better the human race.
By differentiating Hard Trends from Soft Trends, and learning how cyclical or linear changes apply, you can use my anticipatory mindset to be a positive disruptor, setting the bar for your industry for years to come.
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.