I wrote earlier on how to keep current on what is happening in the world. Now we’ll talk about how to keep abreast of trends.
It has been said: It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.[i]
I don’t have any specific magic around predicting specific future events other than that the sun is going to rise and set, but I can share with you some of the things I do to get an idea of IT trends.
1. Pay attention to what companies in industries with more (or a different) IT spend than in your industry are doing. For example, “big data” was reality in the pharmaceutical industry long before it came to retail or healthcare. The cost of gathering, storing and manipulating large amounts of data had to come down for it to be more broadly usable, but big data did not come out of nowhere. A second example is that you might have seen the start of the whole Internet of Things (IoT) movement by looking at logistics companies or, before that, at freight companies. Again, the price of the devices had to come down before you could incorporate devices into lots of “Things” but the movement was there earlier.
2. Look at what comes out of big trade shows and conferences from the booths at the edges of the floor. The companies at conferences generally represent the state of the market, not the state of the art or of the future, but there still are interesting ideas coming from these who might have spent all of their marketing budget for the year on one event.
3. Listen to people who are passionate about ANY technology. Anyone who has passion is worth listening to for the period of time it takes you to finish half your drink at a networking event. It is up to you whether you sip or chug your drink, but you will learn something if you spend the amount of time it takes you to finish half of it. (You are there to network, after all.) You then also have a good excuse to excuse yourself to head for a refill. (My advice is to stick with club soda if you think you are going to be talking to too many passionate people in an evening!)
4. Read trade publications and sites that have little to do with your industry at the present time. I get a couple of NASA’s publications. NASA, in healthcare?! Absolutely. Today’s super-high-tech exotic material is tomorrow’s stent and next week’s Velcro®. You will learn something, and you might learn something interesting.
5. Watch what people with more money than they know what to do with are doing with their money. Self-driving cars? Visits to the edge of space? Hand-held devices that can recognize your handwriting? At some point, these were all, or still are, the purvey of the wealthy.
6. Read science fiction. Communications satellites, video chat, driver-less cars, tablet computers, and so on, were all written about in science fiction before they became reality. Reading science fiction also can be fun!
If you have other ways you use to predict trends, what are they?
[i] I went looking for the appropriate attribution for this quotation and I found references for everyone from Mark Twain to Yogi Berra to Niels Bohr to K. K. Steincke. I’ll have to leave its attribution as the brutally passive-voiced “It has been said…”