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Four Steps to Exploring The Future

Historically (recent history anyway) disruptive technologies have made huge impacts on industries.

People buy and sell stocks online, taking stock brokers out of the equation. As little as 15 years ago, travel agents were  making the travel arrangements we make for ourselves today using sites like Orbitz, Hotwire, Hipmunk and others. An even better example of the transformative use of technology is Amazon, who changed the buying habits of the world, first through their online store and then through the distribution of the first mass market ebook reader (making the publication of eBooks a new profit center for themselves and publishers). Netflix challenged the movie rental and pay television industry first by delivery of DVDs to customers directly, and then by streaming a large library of high quality video for a low monthly fee.

The success of all of these models leads us to believe that every new technological business model will not only impact the industry it is aimed at, but potentially be one of those models that changes the industry deeply and profoundly. The truth, of course, is a different matter, and we are faced with determining how we can embrace change and new technology without creating unintended negative results in our business.

Here are four guideline businesses and professionals can use to maximize their potential for success while minimizing the impact of failure.

  1. Keep Your Head on a swivel – Like a basketball player dribbling a ball in a fast moving high pressure game, spend more time watching what’s going on around you in the game than worrying about the moves you know you’re going to make with the ball you have in your hand. Don’t spend all your time focusing on the technology you’ve already adopted and put in place, make sure you know what new entries there are in the business, and what new tools are available for your consideration. Change is rapid and impactful, be ready to keep up the pace.
  2. Every new thing isn’t necessarily the next great thing – Don’t let enthusiasm for a new concept or a new product run away with your common sense. You know how your business works (or you should) and you should look at all sides of a new idea to see where its week and where its strong. Be as analytical as possible  (while avoiding “paralysis by analysis”) in not only determining what technology to use, but how you are going to execute that technology. Great ideas with poor execution are sadly handicapped.
  3. Don’t Just Follow the Crowd – In a world where there are over hundreds of millions of  people sharing their lives and decisions on Facebook , LinkedIn, Twitter and other social channels, the power of social proof – the “herd instinct” is huge. If everyone in your business is getting a Facebook business page, you want a Facebook business page. If everyone seems to be talking about using their Pinterest subscription for business, you want to use your the same way. If everyone else has a Google+ account then you need a Google+ account. After all if it works for them, it should work for you, right? Wrong! Don’t do anything that doesn’t have a clear business purpose for your business – and make sure that whatever you are doing, its sustainable and affordable – both in terms of financial cost, time and effort. 
  4. Prepare for failure  – You should be trying lots of new things, but be prepared for some of them to fail. Its far worse to never try anything than it is to try a bunch of things and have some work better than others. Have a Plan “B” in case the product or service doesn’t do what you need. Adopting new software? Run your old software in tandem for a period of time to assure that the new system does everything you want it to. Trying a new site for your marketing efforts? Measure your results and be prepared to adjust your efforts, increasing or decreasing your other activities as you get a better understanding of how the new effort has impacted your overall success. Businesses are constantly evolving entities – don’t be afraid of the natural selection process. If you try something and it doesn’t work after a fair trial, don’t be afraid to let it go and try something new.

The future is waiting for all of us.If you are alert, flexible, bold and thoughtful,the future will become the key to your company’s growth and to your success, but its all in your hands.

How will you explore the future?

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