Positive Disruption using Hard Trends and Soft Trends

Strategies based on uncertainty come with high levels of risk, but strategies based on certainty dramatically reduce risk and produce superior results. This is the difference between Soft Trends and Hard Trends.

If you don’t like a Hard Trend, there isn’t a way for you to change it. However, if you don’t like a Soft Trend, you can easily change it to your advantage. I’ve discussed the three digital accelerators responsible for today’s rate of exponential change, transforming every business process in a short amount of time. This is a Hard Trend, while a Soft Trend would be whether you will transform your business processes.

Knowing where to find certainty makes the future more visible. For example, let’s say you want to start a smart watch company. The smart watch business is already filled with competition; however, by using Hard Trends, you can stack the deck in your favor.

Using the certainty provided by demographics, you can create a successful watch business based on the demographic Hard Trend of aging baby boomers and their parents. Simply design a watch for people who are 70 and older — and keep in mind the fact that it will likely be their children who buy it in an effort to keep their parents healthy and safe.

You could design the watch with sensors to detect blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, pulse, temperature and much more. If the wearer falls, the accelerometer in the watch will activate an alarm and send a text message to his or her caregivers. The watch’s GPS and digital assistant will help a wearer with Alzheimer’s get home — and, more importantly, make it possible for caregivers to find him or her from anywhere.

By using the certainty of Hard Trends, you can see new opportunities to create winning products in industries that may already seem saturated.

Next, let’s look at an example of a technological Hard Trend using speed and bandwidth to grow sales. Domino’s Pizza is using a voice-activated personal assistant to increase the speed and efficiency of ordering pizzas. The app even has a “pizza tracker” that allows you to follow the process of your pizza, from creation to delivery. They’ve taken this technological Hard Trend a step further and have created a partnership with Ford Motor Company, making it possible for you to order your pizzas directly from your Ford! With these simple steps, Domino’s has gone from being just a food company to a technology company.

Today, it seems I hear more and more people complaining about government regulations. But what these individuals are missing is that these same governmental regulations are actually Hard Trends that offer visible opportunities. Take the case of the state of California’s requiring nonfiction reading for first through third graders, with a two-year window to comply. I recently met a savvy entrepreneur who capitalized on this new law. She contacted the largest school districts in the state to see if they were interested in getting help meeting this reading requirement. The districts were very interested, which made it easy for her to secure outside funding to develop and supply the online reading products schools need to comply with the new state law.

This entrepreneur took the Hard Trend of a seemingly impossible-to-navigate governmental regulation burdening teachers and administrators and created a new business opportunity out of it. In part thanks to having guaranteed sales by partnering with the large school districts, she cornered the market and successfully developed and supplied the online reading products by the required deadline.

Remember, strategy based on certainty has low risk and high reward. Base your strategies on certainty, on the known future ( the Hard Trends), as well as on the Soft Trends you can manipulate, and you will build something that will not only survive but even thrive in the years ahead.

Merely hoping that disruption is not on your horizon is not a strategy; it is avoidance. Paying attention to a certainty is a strategy. If you don’t make this perspective shift today, it will be far more difficult to lead from behind tomorrow. As dizzying as the pace of change has been these past few years, that pace will only increase.

It’s not uncommon to limit yourself by focusing on all the things you don’t know and all the things you can’t do.

Instead, create the habit of starting with a list of all the things you do know and all the things you can do! Every time you run into something you aren’t certain about, focus harder on the certainties involved.

Turn Disruption and Change Into Opportunity and Advantage with my latest book The Anticipatory Organization. 

Pop Quiz, Monday with Alex Johnson

The truth is I love my work. I pretty much always have. I have built numerous companies from the ground up to large award-winning companies. My motivation is to always focus on the mission of the company – not making money or other tangential benefits. At Swap Motors, our mission is: Buying and Selling Cars Made Simple. I am motivated to come to work each day to advance this mission.

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Alex Johnson

What is your job role?
I am the CEO of Swap Motors

Alex Johnson
Photo credit: Alex Johnson

Tell us about your company?
Swap Motors was created in 2016 when I grew frustrated with the process of trying to sell my car to a dealership. I seized the opportunity to transform a broken industry that has delivered a poor consumer experience. Typical vehicle sales are bogged down with multiple middlemen driving dollars away from buyers and sellers. Swap Motors maximizes value for consumers who can now shop and sell safely on the first of its kind peer-to-peer and consumer auction automotive sales platform. Swap Motors promotes safety, trust, and transparency within the automotive market. In addition, Swap Motors provides the customer service and support to private sellers and buyers as afforded by typical auto dealerships.

What do you love most about your job?
I love working in a fast paced environment, with a talented team – to solve problems in traditional business models.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
The truth is I love my work. I pretty much always have. I have built numerous companies from the ground up to large award-winning companies. My motivation is to always focus on the mission of the company – not making money or other tangential benefits. At Swap Motors, our mission is: Buying and Selling Cars Made Simple. I am motivated to come to work each day to advance this mission.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
My colleagues are subject matter experts in a wide variety of areas. We have amazing technologists, coders, designers & marketers. I am constantly inspired by the breadth of their talent and continued desire to advance our company mission.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
We work long hours. In doing so, we make sacrifices – time away from home/family/etc. For this reason, I make it a point that the team has fun at work too. Our office is designed with a collaborative footprint – and we have ping pong tables and pop-a-shot basketball for relaxation. We also routinely eat meals together. I want the team to feel like they’re a part of the overall Swap Motors family. I hold a weekly innovation meeting for all team members to bring up new ideas for the company – I encourage them to think outside of their expertise area. Some of our best ideas have come through these meetings.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
My job requires me to make important strategic decisions quickly. To do so effectively, I need to absorb material to make informed decisions. Oftentimes, I must become versed in new areas – like full stack coding or digital marketing. While it can be challenging to learn the basics of new areas quickly, it’s also something I find rewarding.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
We are trying to improve the automotive commerce marketplace. While cars have changed, buying and selling cars – has mostly remained unchanged. When changing an old industry – you will face pushback. One example – we wanted to provide tax, title, registration, and license plate services for our peer-to-peer customers. We received a lot of resistance from industry players in accomplishing this since it was something new, and it had not been done before. But, we continued to work with strategic partners, and together we built out a great solution. Today, Swap Motors is the only peer-to-peer marketplace providing these services. My takeaway from this experience is to remain persistent.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
My advice is to build out a great team with diverse expertise. Having a broad talented team provides the basis to accomplish anything.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web: