Are you wondering where the Internet is headed these days? Consider the following trends (stats courtesy of www.staff.com):
• China has more than twice the number of Internet users as the U.S. – 564 million vs. 244 million.
• The Chinese website alibaba.com does more sales than amazon.com and eBay combined.
• Facebook has more than 1.1 billion users, or 46% of all the people in the world on the Internet.
• By 2015, mobile phones and tablets are projected to overtake desktop computers in terms of how many people use them to browse the Internet.
• People upload 350 million photos to Facebook every day. Only two years old, Snapchat already uploads 200 million photos per day, and is projected to overtake Facebook in the near future.
• Google has photographed more than 5 million miles of roads for Google Maps Street View – enough to go to the moon 10 times and back.
• It would take Hollywood 43 years to produce the same amount of video content as gets uploaded to Youtube in one year.
What does it all mean?
Heck if I know! And that’s just the point. As our world becomes ever more complex, it becomes increasingly difficult to know what it all means. When we can no longer make sense of it all, we tend to bury our heads in the sand and hold on to what we think we know about how the world works. As a result, we end up becoming victims of or just reacting to trends rather than using them to our advantage.
When I see data like this, I immediately think back to Daniel Burrus, the author of Flash Foresight, and his concept of hard vs. soft trends. Despite the overwhelming amount of information we must sift through these days, he believes the future is not as unknowable as it may seem. If we know what to look for, we can distinguish between hard and soft trends and thus determine which parts of the future we can be right about. This enables us to build business plans based on some degree of certainty rather than none at all. Visit (http://thehumanfactor.biz/shake-up-your-thinking-with-flash-foresight) for more on hard vs. soft trends.)
For most of us, though, the underlying issue is not figuring out how to distinguish hard from soft trends. It’s building the habit of pausing to look for diverse data into our daily routines. We’re all running so fast these days that slowing down for even a moment to consider different sources of information feels like falling farther behind.
In reality, what’s needed is to pause every now and then to ask, “What am I missing? What’s going on beyond the borders of my business that I should pay attention to?” Then look for ways to build space into our lives for balancing the big picture and details on an ongoing basis. Here are some suggestions from my new book, Using Your Brain to Win https://ad934.infusionsoft.com/app/storeFront/showCategoryPage?categoryId=16:
• At weekly management meetings, talk about an idea or technique from another industry and how it might apply to your business.
• Visit www.ted.com to hear short presentations from some of the world’s best minds. Once a week, have someone watch a TED video that, on the surface, has nothing to do with your business or industry, and present a lunch-and-learn session for the rest of your staff.
• Spend 15 minutes a day studying news from several different sources.
• Take a day off from your business. No cell phones, no PDAs, no checking in to see what’s going on. Just let your mind wander and ask, “What if…?”
• Invite a business associate to lunch and talk about their business. This will force you to think about your own business in new and different ways.
• Attend a conference outside your industry or function. Ask a client if you can accompany them to one they are familiar with.
When we pause to look around, we bump into some very interesting trends. We don’t know exactly why they’re happening or what they mean to our business, but we have to consider them. Otherwise we’ll get blindsided and think there was no way to know, when, in fact, there was plenty of data to consider.
Kodak, Blockbuster, and Sears, to name a few, lost their way because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, change perspective and see how emerging trends might impact their business. What will you to do to keep your company from joining that list?
Call to action: Make a commitment to identify one source of information outside your industry and follow it on a regular basis.