My family has lived in the same house for nearly 17 years, and when we moved in, it was as if there was an unspoken obligation for us to have children and decorate the house for holidays.
So we did. We had our two daughters and covered the house and yard with the appropriate decor for Christmas and Halloween — the two holidays that demand decorating in our book. And for Halloween, we bought pounds of candy and greeted hundreds of the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.
But, this year was very different. The doorbell only rang four times. What happened?
Looking back now, it wasn’t as fast a shift as I had thought. Each year, fewer and fewer of the neighborhood kids have come around on Halloween. They have gotten older and more preoccupied with group trunk-or-treats than door-to-door trick-or-treating. It’s all a function of the times we live in.
So, what does this have to do with business?
Well, business is much the same. Our industries are constantly evolving, usually without us even knowing. For example, I recently attended an event where the speaker talked about the pace of computing technology doubling roughly every 18 months. That seems quick, but it’s just slow enough that we don’t notice it until it’s too late to catch up.
Here are three ways that you can stay ahead of the changes in your business so next year you won’t buy candy for the trick-or-treaters that aren’t going to show up.
1. Ask your team what trends are impacting your industry right now. By asking a larger group, you will often get insights that you may have missed yourself. Repeat this activity annually, if not more often, and take some time to review your team’s feedback so you can decide what actions to take in order to keep yourself 18 months ahead.
2. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Now is the time to start reading and attending conferences to gain knowledge from those who spend their time in the space of discovering what’s coming next. Singularity University, a benefit corporation that provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a start-up accelerator to help businesses understand cutting-edge technologies, is a great resource to help ensure that you see the train before it hits you.
3. Act as if your business is going to be extinct in five years. This may be tough to do, but it reaps major positive results. If you approach your business this way, you will be urged to constantly think of new ideas to make it better than its competition. That will propel your business forward faster.
The trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood began disappearing long before I found myself with a colossal amount of leftover candy. I’m willing to bet your business is doing the same and you just haven’t noticed it yet.
This story was originally published in The Tennessean.