Why do we do it?
- Generate new ideas for strategic, long term focus areas
Some of the megatrends are showing shifts in market needs or usage of our products and services. Understanding these shifts now will enable the company’s sales teams in such a way as to benefit maximally from these shifts and the opportunities they offer;
- Conversation starters with customers and partners
Some of the megatrends will impact our customers’ and partners’ business in a disruptive way. Understanding this impact NOW enables us to determine the best way to respond and help our customers with the challenges they are facing, which in turn will create new business opportunities for us.
- Prepare for key challenges and opportunities for the future
Most of the trends will impact our business directly or indirectly. Some will turn to be a challenge, other concrete opportunities. Understanding this in an early phase, and building action plans around them, will ensure our success as visionary business leader.
- A fantastic theme for Team discussions
Last but not least, I experienced that many teams in my organization are using these ‘megatrends’ in order to have meaningful discussions amongst themselves. Most of the traditional strategy and planning discussions are about how much incremental business can be achieved, or where the biggest opportunities are. From feedback I receive, many teams find it a relief to discuss broader topics and trends that are not necessarily linked to their day-to-day business. In fact, it has strengthened their understanding of one another.
How to get started?
The ‘process’ (how I hate the word) is intentionally kept very simple. After all, the point is not to be accurate or complete –neither of these words apply to this exercise- but to open our eyes to the overarching trends that might be of influence to our business.
- The first thing to do is to select a group of people within the organization that will provide input about trends they see happening, not only in their respective areas of expertise, but also in their personal life or through discussions they have with customers and partners. At this stage, there are no limits to what ideas or subjects can be proposed, so virtually any topic can be submitted. Important here is to select a group of people with a broad range of interest, throughout any level and unit in the organization.
- Secondly, we determined a number of criteria for the trends, in order to make a selection of the ones we need to highlight. In our case, the criteria were:
- is the trend disruptive ? does it change anything at all?
- is it a lasting trend or is it an event? (typically a trend should last longer than 3 years)
- is it new or has it started a long time ago? Is it still ‘news’?
What we have done then is to ask a number of people to judge each of the submitted ideas on these criteria’s, through an XLS-based survey.
- Based on the results of that survey –and some ‘gut-feel’ from ourselves- we then selected the top 50 trends to highlight. Again, it is important to note that at this stage any trend or topic, even far-stretched, and even if not applicable to the company’s activities, are considered.
- Last step is to build a 1 slide ‘argumentation’ (a ‘fact sheet’) around each of these trends (see example below). In our case, the slide would typically include (1) proof of points and sources, (2) key messages, (3) assessment of the level of ‘disruptiveness’ of the trend and (4) assessment of its impact on our company.
I think this is the most crucial aspect of the exercise, and probably the one that is mostly overlooked by anyone looking at Megatrends, for planning purposes or more in general: SEGMENTATION !
In our case, we have chosen to segment the trends on 2 axes (see below): a timeline on the X-axis (is the trend currently happening, is it starting now, or will it start somewhere in the future?) and a judgment on the impact of the trend on my company on the Y-axis.
Top left: trends have happened but we didn’t take action – too late to act;
Bottom left: trend shave happened but don’t have much impact on our company –forget about them;
Bottom middle: trends are happening but don’t have an impact – nice to know;
Bottom right: trends will happen with low impact – follow in order to see whether they might have an impact in the future;
Top right: future trends that might have an influence on our business – closely monitor;
Top middle: trends are happening now and do have an impact – do we/ should we/ could we take action?
How to make sense of all the ideas…
A nice way to maximize the impact of the megatrend exercise is to show the links between all of the trends, and ‘cluster’ them around central themes. Obviously there are thousands of way to do this, but if you use the exercise internally you will soon find that the ‘clustering’ will be around themes that are directly relevant to your business. Just as an example, this is where we got with the ‘mind mapping’ of the 50 trends we selected, using a free ‘mindmapping’ tool: