How to spot the next big thing

Leaders are always on the lookout for the next big thing in their industry. They want solutions that have immediate marketplace impact but carry minimal risk and offer optimum financial benefits. However, everyday business concerns tend overwhelm leaders to such an extent that they often lose sight of the wider strategy. We live in a rapid-paced, short-term, and talent-based workplace with more diversity than ever before. Thus, leaders need to see beyond the obvious and unearth previously unseen opportunities.

Here are a few strategies to help leaders identify the next big opportunity in their business:

1. Transform the workplace into an innovation laboratory

How to spot the next big thing - Defining your innovation lab

Source: Econsultancy

In 2007, a Wall Street Journal article titled “Together We Innovate” stressed the importance of working together in an organization to encourage new ideas irrespective of hierarchy and rank. It stated, “Most companies continue to assume that innovation comes from that individual genius, or, at best, small, sequestered teams that vanish from sight and then return with big ideas. But the truth is most innovations are created through networks -- groups of people working in concert.”

To effectively lead an innovation team, leaders must enable employees to accept their differences and use them to further their own success as well as that of the organization. This helps build an organizational culture that promotes initiative, continuous improvement, and innovation.

An organization must embrace the entrepreneurial spirit to discover the next big thing. Employees should be allowed to take risks and fail responsibly. The workplace culture should not become “comfortable” or “complacent.” The organization should attempt to reinvent itself constantly. This will help it discover hidden opportunities and be proactive rather than reacting to changes occurring in the external environment.

The workplace serendipity quiz determines how proficient a leader is at leading innovative teams. A score greater than 36 is considered good.

2. Develop intelligence about people

Leaders must recognize that business is all about people intelligence, which involves creating a deeper relationship with and becoming more engaged with people who ultimately determine the success of the organization. The Facebooks, Amazons, and Googles of this world became “the next big thing” because their founders had unique ways of thinking. They represented diversity of thought, disruption, and distraction. Instead of taking the traditional path and playing it safe, the founders took the time to educate themselves about the diverse needs of the people they wanted to serve. They rejected the old ways of doing things because it would not help them reach their goal.

Leaders need to develop circular vision that allows them to see what is happening beyond and all around what they want. They must identify and overcome their blind spots to make the best decisions for their customers and their employers. Above all, they must avoid creating tension points between the employees and the consumers because of their neglect of what is important to customers.

3. Host hackathons

Hackathons are social gatherings of programmers where collaborative coding is done, usually over a few days. Also known as hack days or hack fests, the idea behind hackathons is to give developers to freedom to work on a project in their own way. Such events are a good way to find new talent to bring to a company or to discover hidden talent within a company.

Hackathons have proven to be a great source of new ideas, some of which go on to become big revenue spinners. Facebook has traditionally favored such events and many of its popular features, such as Timeline, button, and Facebook Chat have originated from hackathons.

4. Use crowdfunding websites

Crowdfunding platforms such Kickstarter or Indiegogo have enabled thousands of people to raise funding for their projects. New developments in crowdfunding include

  • Localization (funding centered on people from specific locations)
  • Investment crowdfunding (becoming a shareholder of a firm)
  • Group-based approaches
  • Mobile solutions

Crowdfunding brings entrepreneurship and philanthropy together and enables many investors to support companies for profit as well as purpose. Being a part of a crowdfunding community can be a source of inspiration and can give rise to many serendipitous discoveries.

The next big thing is never like the old big thing

It isn’t very likely that “another Microsoft” or “another Facebook” will emerge. The next big thing need not even be radical and unknown. Often, rediscovering old ideas and placing them in a new context is more valuable and more effective than hunting for a magical pill that will transform everything.

About the Author

Satabdi Mukherjee
Satabdi Mukherjee is a freelance writer with a special interest in business and technology. She likes to stay informed about the latest developments around the world and considers herself an information junkie.