Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the lack of curiosity can kill business. Observing the world around you, with an open mind, is something many professionals have unlearned, but it’s something that we’re all born with. Basically, if you want to spot and understand trends, you can.
Understanding customer trends is critical to any business. And trend tracking is easier than you might think. Be curious and open minded. You may be set in your own ways and have strict believes about what is right and what is wrong, but keeping an open mind is important in observing the world around you. Ask yourself ‘why‘ whenever you notice something new, instead of immediately looking for shortcomings.
Also realize that you are not necessarily your customer and that what you care about probably isn’t the same as your customer. You may not be excited about something new, but there might be others that are. Try to figure out what makes others excited and why it is meaningful to that person.
In other words, think and act like a private investigator. How?
Looking at industries that are different from your own can help you form a different kind of perspective. Sometimes, when we only look at things through one lens, we allow our preconceived notions outweigh our instincts ultimately limiting insights.
The thing that could be innovative in a polar opposite category may very well be happening in your industry as well. Sticking with your own industry could severely limit your sources of inspiration, but it could also make you miss important cultural changes in customer expectations.
Last but not least, if you’re only looking at your competition, you’ll be tempted to jump into that “me too” track. To really become a trendsetter, it’s best to look where your competition isn’t.
Understand the big picture.
Understanding the big picture from the macro trends to consumer trends to industry trends allows you to see how your company, the products and consumers all fit together.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Don’t dismiss anything just because YOU would NEVER do THAT. Just because you wouldn’t or you don’t understand why others would, really doesn’t mean anything. So many of today’s success stories stem from dismissed and ridiculed ideas and products (remember all of the harsh things originally said about the iPod?).
Remember, we’re all human and we’re all different. Instead of just writing an idea off, ask a lot of questions. Find out why something is happening, why something was introduced, why consumers like it. Always look beyond your personal tastes.
Ask questions. Nonstop. And ask a lot of questions.
Why is something happening? Why was it introduced? Why do consumers like it? Or why do they hate it? Look beyond the sources that appeal to your personal tastes.
Keep a really open mind.
Get rid of taboos, prejudices, dogmatism, and negativity. All of this will severely block your ability to pick up new ideas, to understand your customers, and will thus cost you money. (Hey, it will make you a more pleasant person, too.)
Try stuff out.
The proof of the pudding is always in the eating.
Be curious. Be open-minded. Look for insights and make change.