Friday, December 5, 2014

Gutsche, Better and Faster

Jeremy Gutsche’s Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas (Crown Business, 2015) joins the crowded field of books on innovation. Gutsche, the founder of the Trend Hunter site, an online community for people to share business ideas, has not written the definitive book on the subject, but some of his own ideas are definitely worth sharing.

The guiding metaphor of the book pits the hunter against the farmer. Once the farmer (and Gutsche’s farmer is, of course, a stylized construct) figures out how to produce a harvest, each year he repeats the chain of decisions that led to the last harvest. He is complacent and wants to protect the status quo. The hunter, by contrast, is insatiable, curious, and willing to destroy. In Gutsche’s world the farmer is likely to become irrelevant or worse—think Smith-Corona or Blockbuster—while the hunter forges ahead.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve vowed to be a hunter. What should you hunt for? Gutsche lays out six patterns of opportunity: convergence, divergence, cyclicality, redirection, reduction, and acceleration. Described in their simplest terms, convergence combines multiple products, services, or trends. Divergence opposes or breaks free from the mainstream. Cyclicality focuses on predictably recurring opportunities. Redirection channels the power of a trend instead of fighting it; for instance, redirection can refocus or reprioritize. Reduction simplifies or focuses an idea. Acceleration identifies a critical feature and dramatically enhances that element.

What I have laid out in one paragraph Gutsche spends over a hundred pages on, describing the patterns in more detail and giving multiple examples. I would hope that traders and investors could come up with their own examples of patterns of opportunity.

We’ve now reached the point in Gutsche’s book that, “armed with a knowledge of the patterns of opportunity and having awakened your inner hunter, you’re now better prepared to spot and hit those opportunities to find better ideas, faster.”

The first step is to narrow your focus to “zero-in on the opportunities that are just big enough to be profitable, but not so large and obvious that your competitors can already spot them.” (p. 161) Then find a cluster of products, services, or concepts that follow a similar idea. The third step is to search the perimeter for slightly related ideas and the fourth, to push your boundaries. Five, collect and cluster what you find, and then throw away your first clusters because “the human mind is great at finding trends and patterns by creating shortcuts or by falling prey to stereotypes, schemas, and bias. We try to lighten our mental load by referencing what we’ve seen before and what we know works.” (p. 168) Finally, use the six patterns to re-cluster your insights.

There you have it, folks, a game plan for better, faster ideas. It might just work.

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