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Many talk about the the existence of rapid change and how it’s disrupting the status quo. It seems as soon as we become accustomed to one way of managing our everyday lives, something changes. We find the need to learn a new technique or a new process. We are pushed into learning something new even if we don’t intend to. There are new functions on our cell phones, computers , TV’s, the addition of new electronic devices and more. There is no indication that change will slow down. So, survivors will learn to deal with it.

If you are building a business, staying ahead of and managing constant change is a paramount survival skill. Trend foraging will help you control and direct the types of change required if you want to build and maintain a strong business. The availability of vast amounts of information will help you know what you need to know to become and remain an industry leader.

Industry trend foraging is using as many methods as you can afford, to find out where your industry is now and where it is going in the future. Websites, magazines, blogs and industry conferences are the most logical resources to use. Use as many free sources as possible and if you value frugality, free resources will be more than adequate.

Norma D. Anderson in “The Importance of Watching Trends” suggests, “Network with other entrepreneurs, both in and out of your industry (I promise, you’ll gain some of your most valuable trend insights by talking to people in completely different industries.) Take advantage of social networking tools like LinkedIn and Facebook. Start or join groups on the networks and see what people are buzzing about. Pose questions about trends you are seeing.”

Interact with your customers as much as possible. This is probably one of your best sources of trending needs in your industry. You may need to simplify or enhance your product/service quality or delivery process to align with the changes your customers are experiencing. Try to determine the level of stress they may experience around your product/service and use this as a possible indication for innovation.

“You win by engaging with your most visionary customers to co-design new products and new processes.” Patricia Seybold

Proactive innovation, not reactive innovation, is a basic requirement for industry dominance in the Conceptual Age although both may be useful.

If you are using a proactive strategy you stay abreast of the current and changing trends in your industry. You identify opportunities for you to create or innovate ahead of the changes. You will allocate time and resources for proactive activities.

If you use a reactive strategy, you create or innovate in response to additional needs or requirements in your business or industry. Your creative or innovative actions take place only after you identify a need. Theses contributions may be helpful or even necessary to your industry but seldom put you ahead of others in your discipline.

“Nothing is done. Everything in the world remains to be done or done over. The greatest picture is not yet painted, the greatest play isn’t written, the greatest poem is unsung. There isn’t in all the world a perfect railroad, nor a good government, nor a sound law.” Lincoln Steffens

Trend foraging will help you plan your creative and innovative projects. You can determine the value of these projects to your business building efforts by testing them against your Purpose, Values, strategy and working Systems.

Test the feasibility of your creative and innovative endeavors.

You can test for system incongruities, demographic changes, customer perceptions and new knowledge. This will help you measure the efficiency and effectiveness of your creation or innovation. In addition, you’ll learn how much your customers will accept or adapt to your creation or innovation.

According to Branden Kelley in “Innovation is All About Value” “Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative..and [is] widely adopted.” If your innovation seems to have high value and improves upon the existing design and customers want it, you’re on the right track.

Does this seem like a daunting task? There is no doubt it is. It will take plenty of conscientious work. Building a business is a daunting task at its core. However, your love and dedication to your Purpose will pull you through the required tasks. Trend foraging can become a part of your regular schedule and you can make it a requirement for anyone joining your enterprise. This will allow you to stay ahead of the curve in all of your critical business Systems. Become a futurist and help create the future with regular trend foraging.

For System design and control see: “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”