Identify trends: How to connect your trend universe to the time beam
Your individual trend universe is the basis for further developing your business with innovations. But a trend universe alone is too little for actively managing trends for your business. You need the time factor. For what use is it when you develop a product for which the market is not yet ripe? Here we show you how to link your individual trend universe with the time beam. This allows you to identify trends and make a big step towards your roadmap.
Put everything on many trend cards
You can imagine your individual trend universe as a set of playing cards. On the front you will find a picture, the name, and possibly a brief description of a single trend. On the back are the details. The time beam now adds another dimension. These are exactly what you are doing on a blackboard. But before you get there, first bring order to your trend universe.
You assign each individual trend card to a category. These categories can be technology or market trends. Regulatory developments, such as the exhaust gas standard Euro-6 standard and its future versions, are also an important category. Also categories that do not have direct contact with your company can be important. For example, you are creating car doors for a car manufacturer - so you are a pure B2B company. Nevertheless, the car you supply to your customers must also meet the needs of the end user. After all, the consumer is the user of your product. So if the trend goes towards cleared car design, this also applies to the car dash you are making. For a better overview, assign a color to each category. A classification scheme can typically contain the following points:
- Market structure
- Markttrends (customer requirements)
- Politics, legal trends and norms
- Community trends
- Economic trends
- Environmentally friendly
- Supplier center
- Product / usage trends
- Branch centers
Make an empty time beam
A time beam typically takes ten years. But he does not have to. For some industries this period is simply too long. So no one knows in the software sector, with which programming language and on what devices he will work in the year 2025. For this industry, five years have been anticipated long enough. Other areas, such as car manufacturers or the energy industry, have to plan on a longer-term basis. In this case, a corresponding "longer" time beam is necessary.
How long you have also measured the period for the time beam; It has little influence on the size of the piece of paper or the board already mentioned. In any case, your timeline must always be. The dimensions of one and one half by three meters have proven themselves in practice. After all, several people work at the same time on this document and should also have a good overview of it.
You can enter the time factor on the long axis. On the high axis, for example, you enter your relevant markets or business areas. Markets can describe geographical areas. But not only. This can also mean sales markets. For example, they produce a circuit breaker that protects a power supply from overvoltage and thus a cable fuse. These switches are used in automobiles as well as in airplanes or photovoltaic systems. Each of these areas is its own market - with its own rules and trends.
Consult your own employees
In a first round, let your strategic control team enter the individual trend cards into the time beam. This team should consist of long-standing and experienced employees.
What is important is the question: When will this or that trend be relevant to one's own company? Because it can be that a trend can be observed for a certain time in the market. However, he must first achieve a certain strength so that he becomes relevant to your company.
For example, only ten percent of the bicycles used in a given area support their users with an electric motor (e-bikes), then it pays for a local supermarket chain to equip its branch with power stations.
Ask external experts
In order to prevent your own juice, you must also have the trend cards registered by an external expert team in the time beam. You should also look for the right experts. If you have entered the "China" market as a sales market, for example, because you want to expand in the future or have been active for a long time, you can also get an expert from this economic area.
Because trends and developments often appear completely different from a distant vision than they are in reality. Maybe you do not exist. That is why the first question for experts is always: Is this trend at all one? Only when "Yes" is the trend card input into the time beam.
One example: safety in construction is an important issue in Western Europe. Products that increase these are in demand. Indian contractors, this topic - for us Europeans incomprehensible - is (still) largely foreign. So if you are trying to get on with products in India that increase the safety of the building, you will probably suffer shipwreck.
Merge your timelines
After these two rounds, you will rarely receive two completely equal results. This must now be fused into a time beam. However, it is not a matter for external experts to discuss the differences. The final classification always takes care of the company's innovation. These are strategic decisions, which may also have internal reasons.
Keep your timeline current
You can imagine a time beam like a weather report. Its forecasts are very likely to occur in the first one to two days. The weather in ten days can also be completely different than predicted.
Your time beam will have a very high hit rate for the next two to three years; But then always inaccurate. That is why you have to keep your time beam up to date. You should re-discuss it at least every two years. In order to increase the hit rate, an analysis also helps, which forecasts have now arrived, which not, and what reasons this might have. It is recommended to carry out this process every year.
Conclusion: To recognize trends correctly
If you have linked your individual trend universe to the time beam, you have portrayed a future concept for your company. In order to plan your innovations and to place them at the right time in the market, you need your trend universe connected with the time beam. In just one case, you can go straight to developing a product without a time beam. That is when the patent expires for one of your cash cows. Because then you have a concrete point in time, from when an innovation must have acquired at the latest market maturity.
However, if you want to be innovative, open up new markets, or even want to rely on a new business model, you need a trend universe combined with the time beam. In order to arrive at a concrete roadmap, however, you still have a few steps. We will inform you about this in the next blog articles.
In a further article we will show you how to create your individual trend universe.
Born in the Salzkammergut. After working for Shell and Porsche, he concentrated on innovation management as a study assistant at the Innovation Department of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. In 2003 he founded LEAD Innovation and manages the company as Managing Partner. Lectures at MIT, in front of companies like Google or NASA.