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. 

Redefine and Reinvent Your Career Before It Leaves You Behind

Going forward, the one and only thing you can depend on is transformation. Technology-driven business process transformation is a Hard Trend; it will happen, and it is happening now! However, the truth of the matter is that actually utilizing this Hard Trend to redefine and reinvent your business or your career is a Soft Trend; some will do it and prosper, others will not. For those who want to use the forces of change and transformation to grow and prosper, this article is for you.

We are no longer in a period of rapid change. We have now entered an amazing inflection point where true transformation happens. For example, we changed how we listened to music and catalogued our media when we went from CDs and floppy discs to all our smartphones holding music, photos, files, email and access to information. Technological change transformed our processes in these industries.

Going forward, the one and only thing you can depend on is transformation. Technology-driven business process transformation is a Hard Trend; it will happen, and it is happening now! However, the truth of the matter is that actually utilizing this Hard Trend to redefine and reinvent your business or your career is a Soft Trend; some will do it and prosper, others will not. For those who want to use the forces of change and transformation to grow and prosper, this article is for you. It is crucial to understand that you can’t go backward, and you can’t stand still. You can’t keep doing what you’ve always done and expect to thrive, even if you are improving at that rhetorical process. The only way to survive and thrive is to continuously reinvent and redefine everything you are doing.

Redefining and Reinventing

Transformation is an accelerated and magnified force of change. Redefining and reinventing is a way of harnessing that wild force and applying it to a product, a service, an industry, or a career. Redefining and reinventing mean seizing the opportunity to rewrite your own history—before digital disruption does it for you.

Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich reinvented an entire marketplace back in 1983 when they redefined the family station wagon with an entirely new automotive category—the minivan—that would continue to dominate for the next quarter century. At the time, station wagon sales were not growing, even though baby boomers were in their prime childbearing years and the nation was bursting with new families. Why? Because even though baby boomers needed a set of wheels with substantial family room, they did not want to look and act just like their parents.

A Powerful Strategy

Fast forward to more recent times. Basic minivans are not as cool to the next generations having families, as Generation X and millennials grew up riding in their parents’ minivans, and history tends to repeat itself: they do not want to look and act just like their parents, either! Now automotive companies produce what is called the crossover—sporty alternatives to minivans capable of safely and conveniently hauling both families and large purchases from the store. As it was a stroke of flash foresight with baby boomers, it occurred yet again, based on the Hard Trend of Generation X, millennials, and their needs (along with the eternal insight that people don’t want to look or act like their parents).

Reinventing has always been a powerful strategy. But in the past, corporate and product reinvention was an option; today it is an imperative. Today, we live in a unique context, where an absurd amount of processing power and bandwidth exists and has completely transformed our concept of stability. In the past, stability and change were two contrasting states: when you achieved stability, you did so despite change. Today change itself has become an integral part of stability. You can achieve stability only by embracing change as a continuous and permanent state.

But even change itself has changed. Information and new knowledge now travel around the world at the speed of light while technological innovation occurs almost as fast as the speed of thought. In this new frontier of vertical change, you cannot just reinvent now and then: to survive and thrive you must be redefining and reinventing yourself, your business, and your career continuously.

If you are a business, you are faced with an urgent question every day: Are your customers learning and changing faster than you are? Because they are changing and learning fast—and if you are not already designing and providing the solutions to the problem they are going to have next week and next year, you are already behind the curve. This truth spans industries and size, no matter if you are an individual, a small business, or a multinational corporation.

The question is whether we will become more anticipatory by paying close attention to the Hard Trends shaping our industries, or wait until we are inevitably disrupted by technology-driven change. Apple, Google, and Amazon are good examples of Anticipatory Organizations, and the results speak for themselves. Will you join them?

Eager for more insights? Find them in my new book,The Anticipatory Organization, now available for the price of shipping.