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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 03-Oct-2018
Posted by: Michael PUTZ

How to build up your individual trend universe


The only constant in our modern world is change. In order for you and your company to develop in the right direction, you should systematically deal with trends. Because trends open up the business opportunities of tomorrow. An individual trend universe forms the basis for proactive trend management. We show you how you can build and use your own trend universe.

The phrase mentioned at the beginning may sound trite to you - at best it is true. A survey by the Institute for Strategic Management at WU Vienna and Contrast Management Consulting once again shows this: Almost half of the 800 CEOs and strategy managers surveyed in Austria and 2,000 in Germany are convinced that their own business model will be very limited or no longer viable at all in 10 years' time.


In the midst of the "digital tsunami".

Long-lived market structures and consumer worlds are a thing of the past. What is partly completely contradictory exists side by side. Society as a whole has changed its physical state from solid to liquid. The digital transformation is changing society and all industries, and is doing so ever faster.


New competitors appear from the blind spot

Within these conditions, it is difficult for companies to maintain their market leadership in the long term. New competitors literally emerge from the blind spot and stir up entire industries in an extremely short time.

Would you have thought a few years ago that a US company making money with online advertising would be responsible for the most important innovations in the car industry in recent decades? Google's self-propelled car has surprised the entire car industry and established players such as Daimler are (still) jumping on this development.

The list of companies that are breaking up the structures of established industries in a very short time is getting longer and longer: AirBnB has become one of the toughest competitors for hoteliers all over the world without even running their own hotel.

Paper Create Trend Universe 

Long-term competitive advantages are dying out

In this uncertain situation, companies must follow a flexible strategy. They have to constantly search for lucrative niches - often only in the short term - in order to survive. The times of a long-term, strategic competitive advantage that gives companies predictable sales and profits are over.

US professor of economics Rita Gunther McGrath, for example, is convinced of this and confirms this thesis in her book "End of Competitive Advantage".


Trends generate the demand of the future

To discover such niches, it is necessary to deal with trends and translate them for the company. But what is a trend at all? "Trends are social change factors that nestle in the source codes of our world and transform wishes, habits, markets and institutions," says futurologist Matthias Horx.


Diagnostics instead of forecasts

Trends are therefore not concrete developments, but forces of change that affect these developments. A trend is a diagnosis - not a prognosis. Trends influence each other and grow evolutionarily. So they are anything but linear. For you as an entrepreneur it is important: trends ultimately generate new needs and thus demand. You should therefore strategically deal with trends.


Trend universe forms the basis

The important basis for dealing with trends is a so-called trend universe. You can create such a trend universe individually for your industry. It helps to assess future developments and their effects on your business. In short, it reduces the number of open questions.

However, one trend universe alone is not enough. This collection of trends relevant to your industry does not take time into account. However, it is extremely important for you to know when a trend becomes relevant.

A small example: Driving cars with electric motors is an undisputed trend, but in terms of sales figures it is still a marginal phenomenon of the automotive market. This trend could only become relevant for you and your business if the proportion of newly registered e-vehicles rises above 10 percent.

The combination of trend universe plus timeline then forms the basis for your concrete roadmap. 


How to collect and structure trends

Of course, the collection of trend data is not the end of the story. This is because you have to store or save them in a structured manner in order to make them usable for use. This storage can be done manually, or with standard software such as Excel. The free MindMap program FreeMind has proven to be helpful. The software on which the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is based is also well suited for the collection of trends.

Of course, external service providers such as LEAD Innovation or Innovation Service Network also help to collect and administer your trends. These service providers also ensure that your trend collection remains up to date. But that can also be the task of strategic marketing. Large companies employ their own trend managers, who also check whether a trend universe is outdated or not.


How to present trends and use your trend universe 

Their trend universe will be used especially on two occasions: At your annual strategy meeting and in very concrete innovation projects. Both events involve employees who, because of their role in the company, do not deal as strongly with trends as a managing director, trend manager or the head of strategic marketing does. The collected trend data must therefore be prepared "bite-sized".

A proven method is to present the relevant trends in the form of a deck of playing cards: On the front of the card is the name of the trend, a short description and a matching picture. More detailed information on the specific trend can then be found on the back.

Power-Point is also suitable for the clear presentation of your trend universe. Every single trend at Deutsche Telekom is presented with three PowerPoint slides each: The first sheet shows the title of the trend, the second contains brief general information about it and the third Power Point page shows the viewer the details.


Conclusion: Building and using your own trend universe

It is not a promising business strategy to rest on proven competitive advantages and hope that these will continue to generate sales and profits in a few years' time. The transformation process in which our economy and society finds itself is simply too strong for this. The far better strategy is to deal with trends proactively and without external pressure. Because these will ultimately open up tomorrow's business opportunities for you. A trend universe is the basis for managing trends. And thus also the basis for your future business success.

Create Trend Universe

Michael PUTZ

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.

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