7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Spot Future Opportunities

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed” – William Gibson, Canadian-American science fiction writer

It begins with a story.  In 2001, the smartest strategic decision makers at Best Buy, one of the United States’ retail giants, decided to invest $685 million in the acquisition of the electronics chain Musicland.  The next year, Best Buy wrote down a loss of $85 million from Musicland operations alone and was forced to hand off the entire chain of 1300 stores in a cashless transaction. How did these guys fail to see the trends of the electronics industry?  Their customers were shifting away from a brick and mortar model for consuming electronics and Best Buy’s brightest minds didn’t get the memo.

Last week’s itnig Friday’s event in Barcelona featured futurist and economist Libby Garrett’s insight into identifying future trends and innovation to better prepare our startups for what’s on the horizon.

Here are 7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Spot Tomorrow’s Opportunities Today: 

Examining the innovators and early adopters

1.  Examine the Innovators and Early Adopters. We’re concerned with the left side of this graph to identify the early stages of major transformation shifts in technology and consumer behavior. One great way to stay updated on the next wave of innovation is to track the annual Gartner Hype Cycle

2.  Look in the 4 Directions of Change.  Change occurs at the intersection of Technology, Business, and Consumer Behavior within the bubble of our Ecology.  Business is the medium at which the supply side (technology) drives or is driven by the demand side (consumer/societal behavior) and everything is influenced by the surrounding environment. Tony Alva and the future of skateboarding

A great example of this is the story of modern day skateboarding (Dogtown and Z-boys). First, the wheels changed from clay to petroleum base (Technology).  At the same time, we had the emergence of “latch key kids” home alone with working parents (Societal Behavior).  Journalists created the buzz and told the stories to the rest of the world to plant the seeds of a new mega industry (Business).  To bring it all together, a severe drought (Ecology) forced southern Californians to drain their pools which gave the kids unlimited places to skate.

Taking this step even further, you can frame the opportunity using the Business Model Canvas and see how innovation will change the components of your business.

3.  Ask yourself: “does this change life and/or consumption as we know it?For example, examining how Collaborative Consumption, the Internet of Things and 3D printing are disrupting the world economy as opposed to the passing flicker of implementing the Groupon model in Spain.  This practice will help you weed out real trends from short-term fads that can influence the market.

4.  Study the pipeline of change occurring now.  Where is the epicenter of innovation occurring in your sector or in the adjacent industries that can impact your business?  Identify the leaders and organizations driving progress and create new alliances with them.  Innovation occurs along a pipeline – like plumbing – we just need to know which faucet that it will pour out.The future belongs to the curious

5.  Take the future for a test drive.  As the quote stated above, the future is already here, and luckily technology is making it more accessible by widening its distribution.  One way to catch up to the trends you care about is to access online education through Coursera, Skillshare, and Udemy.  These new EDU channels let you learn on your own terms and are an extremely affordable way to build your knowledge base.

6.  Talk to people who make great things.  These are the people who are pushing the envelope of existing technology and breaking into uncharted territory.  Sometimes innovation is simply building on the existing ideas of others and taking it one step further.  Strike up as many conversations as possible with people who are making things happen

7.  Connect the dots going forward.  Steve Jobs was wrong.  We are all capable of connecting the dots looking forward, it just takes a new set of lenses in which to identify new trends in technology and shifts in consumer behavior.

The value is not just in predicting the future, even with 100% certainty. The real value is creating the business opportunity landscape – a 360º view – evolving in the next 1-3 years to better envision what tomorrow looks like so you can better prepare your business for the future.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

Libby Garrett searches the world for emerging innovation with an eye for opportunities for small business, entrepreneurs, startups and designers. She reports on emerging innovation trends for innovation consultancies including PSFK and The Future Laboratory.

Libby also teaches Trends Investigation and Innovation at IED in Barcelona, and she advises enterprising individuals in future forward business practices.

Her insights are backed by 10+ years in management, consulting entrepreneurs in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, London and Barcelona, as well as a BS in economics from UC Berkeley and a MSc in economics and horizon change from LSE. Follow her @libby_garrett

itnig specializes in bringing together brilliant engineers, creative people, experts in online marketing and business that along our energetic entrepreneurs are able to successfully execute any business plan.

itnig fridays are talks about topics of interest for entrepreneurs: business tips, development tricks, design patterns, online marketing tools and much more! Each Friday just come to our office and enjoy every interesting speech with like-minded people. We will be happy to meet you!

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