“A New Breed of Trendspotter”
In today’s world, the traditional concept of innovation itself seems to be too slow to keep up with the changes that we see happen every day. The next great idea, the next big trend, seems to fade and vanish as soon as the spotlight hits it. In this kind of environment, how does one reach his or her full potential? How can you find the big ideas that will help you outstrip your competitors?
These were the questions that plagued author, innovation expert and entrepreneur Jeremy Gutsche. “For years, I searched for my own entrepreneurial idea, but like many people, I never found one that seemed exactly right,” Gutsche writes in his latest book. “By age 29, I’d worked as a management consultant, as a head of analytics, as an innovation lead, and finally, as a director for a bank. I’d made a career out of helping other people find their ideas without finding my own. “So, one morning in the wee hours, I created an online community called Trend Hunter for people to share their business ideas,” Gutsche writes. “I hoped that someone somewhere would help me find my inspiration—but when the site exploded in growth, I realized Trend Hunter itself was my opportunity.”
Since then, TrendHunter.com has established Gutsche as “a new breed of trendspotter” (according to Great Britain’s Guardian) and a man “on the forefront of cool” (according to MTV). By 2014, TrendHunter.com’s 156,000 contributors had garnered two billion page views for the site, which gauges business ideas and trends according to their popularity, freshness and demographics.
Now, Gutsche has brought the power of TrendHunter.com to bear in Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas (Crown Business, 2015), a book that he says will help readers see patterns and clues that will lead to potential-shattering innovation. Recognizing patterns—interconnected concepts that can lead to new ideas—is key to being on the forefront of new trends, according to Gutsche.
“Patterns surround us. We eat them, see them, smell them, taste them and walk past them every day. But most people fail to connect the dots. They don’t recognize ideas that others will relate to, gaps in services, or niches where one can rake in profits simply by diverging from the mainstream.”
As an example, Gutsche cites Robert Lang, an electrical engineer and fiber-optics researcher whose passion for and expertise in origami—the Japanese art of paper-folding, at which he became a master—led him to wildly divergent opportunities.
“Lang’s breakthroughs (in origami) demonstrated how creative folding techniques can solve a range of mechanical engineering problems,” Gutsche writes. Lang found himself consulting for NASA, who needed a new way to fold telescopes into rocket ships; and a German automaker that was searching for superior techniques in packing airbags. Better and Faster identifies three traps that hold people back—traps that are often triggered by their own success. “Complacency blocks curiosity,” Gutsche writes. “Repetition often prevents new ideas from being tested.” And sometimes, protectiveness of time-tested ideas hinders progress. “At a certain point,” he writes,” to liberate potential, it becomes necessary to destroy what’s worked in the past.”
The book also points out “patterns of opportunity” that have helped ordinary people unexpectedly make it big. TrendHunter.com provides Gutsche with a databank of 250,000 ideas to fall back on, but he prefers to use examples of successful people to make his point. “While the data is deep, my preference is to tell stories,” he writes. “And not just familiar ones, but those you’ve likely never heard before: tales involving people from every economic strata who have achieved the incredible. By seeing how specific individuals and companies mastered the patterns, you’ll be able to out-innovate, outsmart and outmaneuver.”