The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter June 30, 2014

The future leaves muddy footprints in the present

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How often do you have the opportunity to be part of creating a new industry? Bill Gates was quoted in an interview, commenting on how his learning of the Altair microcomputer based on the Intel 8080 chip influenced his decision to drop out of Harvard to start a computer software company.

"How does it feel to be part of a dying industry?" That's how Steve Jobs taunted Ken Olsen, the founder of DEC and the father of the minicomputer market -- a market the PC ultimately destroyed.

Both these pioneers recognized technology trends that created huge waves in the marketplace. Bill Gates was able to surf the waves successfully to achieve riches. Ken Olsen found that the tsunami inundated and destroyed the business he built on an earlier wave.

Surfers search for the perfect wave. Professional surfers learn how to recognize when conditions are ideal for big waves, know the most likely places to find those waves, and have prepared themselves for the ride of their lives.

When I started my electrical engineering education at NJIT, I subscribed to Electronics, the McGraw-Hill monthly trade journal. In addition to my studies, I devoured every issue, reading every article as well as readers' letters to the editor and each and every advertisement. After a couple of years, I noticed something curious. I could predict the future.

A short article about some promising research would be followed several months later about an experimental application of that research. A year or so later, there would be a short article about a potentially promising product, followed months later by an advertisement for a new product. Within a year there would be similar products advertised by multiple companies, most of which I had already predicted.

How was I able to predict them? Because nothing appears out of thin air. The future leaves muddy footprints in the present. By paying close attention to trends, you can anticipate future events.

My graduate school research partner Dr. Ken Thurber has written a series of excellent books on the subject. His latest, Trends, Waves, Windows, and Bubbles (Digital Systems Press, 2014), details how to recognize and extract opportunities from this phenomenon.

Trends produce waves in the marketplace. Some waves present windows of opportunities for expansion and profit. Others will wash your current business away like a tsunami. The trick is to identify the widow of opportunity in the relevant waves and profit before the wave crashes or the bubble bursts.

Create a strategic plan with your team

"I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today.
I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.”
James Joyce

A well-facilitated strategic planning process is a proven way to identify relevant trends and likely waves. In addition to the usual topics of weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and strengths – the WOTS-up analysis – you identify the trends affecting the business and their upside and any downside potential.
 

How long have you been saying that you will develop your strategic plan, but you haven't yet done so? Why? Perhaps it remains on your to-do list because it feels like a huge, laborious process and you haven't the time to spare to do it. Peak-performing companies have a clearly defined strategic plan…and it doesn't have to take long to create an effective one.

John W. Myrna

is co-founder of
Myrna Associates Inc


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John Recommends

Trends, Waves, Windows & Bubbles
by Dr. Ken Thurber

How do you extract opportunity from trends?

Ken's book provides insight on how to recognize trends and the waves of opportunities they generate.

Learn to ride the waves and avoid being wiped out by their undertow!   


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success@myrna.com


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