Interview with Professional Trend Spotter and Author Jeremy Gutsche
The Post2Post bus has returned!
The Fresh Peel is pleased to welcome Jeremy Gutsche, founder of the wildly popular TrendHunter.com and author of Exploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change, which is the featured book for October’s stop on the Post2Post Virtual Book Tour.
Not only is Jeremy one of the founders at TrendHunter, but he is also a highly sought after speaker. He was one of Capital One’s youngest Business Directors and innovation leads. Prior to Capital One, Jeremy advised top-level strategy to Fortune 50 and government clients as a Management Consultant at the Monitor Group.
In this interview, I picked Jeremy’s brain on everything from finding innovation out of chaos to what his response is to opponents of trend spotting.
Q: Is chaos a necessary ingredient for innovation?
Jeremy: It’s not required, but during periods of chaos, consumer needs change. This presents an opportunity for companies who are able to identify these needs.
Q: What are some things that history teaches us about chaos and crisis?
Jeremy: People get caught up in the downsides of the depression, but history teaches us that these times consistently provide us with new opportunities. In fact, some of the most iconic companies were founded during chaotic periods of economic downturns, including: Apple, Microsoft, General Electric, Amgen, Hyatt, HP, EA, and Fortune Magazine.
Fortune Magazine, for instance, was founded just four months AFTER the 1929 Wall Street crash. It was a dollar an issue (the price of a wool sweater), but it thrived. DURING the Great Depression, a subscriber base of 500,000 was grown, and the magazine made seven million dollars in modern day profit. The reason Fortune was successful was not because it was a luxury publication, but rather, because consumer needs had evolved. When people lost their jobs and saw the world changed by the decisions made by NYC based corporations, they wanted to know what was happening behind boardroom doors. Fortune was an answer; an answer to a new consumer need.
Q: You introduce a new wave of management theory which you call “The Exploiting Chaos Framework.” Give us a brief description of each of the four tactics and how they work in the framework.
Jeremy: Culture of Revolution – Culture is more important than strategy because it underlies your organization’s ability to adapt. During times of dramatic change, the importance of an aligned organization becomes even more important
Trend Hunting – Innovation and strategic advantage hinge on the ability to anticipate new trends and identify the next big thing. The book outlines our TrendHunter.com approach to filtering through chaos and identify clusters of opportunity to focus your innovation.
Adaptive Innovation – Engineers, designers, and scientists have invested billions of dollars to perfect human creativity. By applying the best of their proven practices to your own field, you can think big while acting small. You can rapidly identify and evaluate new opportunities.
Infectious Messaging – The Internet has created a world cluttered with chaos, but it has also created the world’s first viral platform for ideas. Well-packaged stories travel faster than ever before. Unfortunately, most marketers are stuck in a world dominated by traditional advertising and cliché. By cultivating infection, your ideas will resonate, helping you to leapfrog ahead of the competition.
Q: What’s different about the framework that you present from current and past management models? Why do organizations need a new model?
Jeremy: The EXPLOITING CHAOS framework teaches readers about reinventing SPECIFICALLY during times of chaos and change, whether in an area of growth and bubbling opportunity or periods of downturn.
Q: In the book, you say, “if you want to change the course of your organization’s future, you need to spark a revolution.” Where in the organization does this spark take place and who makes it happen?
Jeremy: The revolution is in the mindset of the entire organization. It becomes part of the culture. It takes place when the leaders of the company are able to articulate a mantra. An alignment towards a common mantra helps the company to evolve in the same direction.
Q: Your framework includes trend hunting, which is what you and your team does on a daily basis at TrendHunter.com. Is the trend hunting a part of the framework that an organization could outsource? Possibly to an company like TrendHunter.
Jeremy: We provide premium research and help facilitate workshops for companies… but ultimately, trend hunting involves looking for ideas that spark interest based on YOUR consumer’s needs… So truly breakthrough organization has to have origins within one’s own company. Accordingly, we like to help companies by providing them with a toolkit and trends in other industries that might be relevant for their own problems.
Q: What would your response be to someone that says, “you can’t spot trends because by the time you recognize a trend it’s already here, and thus no longer a trend?”
Jeremy: In the book (and our professional research), we use the term clusters… The theory being that you need to find groups of meaningful and inspiring ideas. If these ideas are relevant to your consumer’s needs, and they aren’t incredibly broad, then you’re going to have a good basis for creating remarkable products that solve a consumer need.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge as a professional trend hunter?
Jeremy: Balancing my time… I do about 5-10 speaking gigs a month, and all that travel keeps me away from the Trend Hunter team, who is diligently programming new functionality and hunting new trends as we do this interview…
Q: What do organizations tend to struggle with more? Trend Hunting (recognizing trends) or Adaptive Innovation (Finding ways to apply those trends)?
Jeremy: It’s so easy to get caught up with routine daily tasks and the status quo, that I think organizations struggle most with Culture. However… I won’t avoid your question that easily… I think organizations struggle with Trend Hunting because it is too easy to jump to the closest answer or to make the same decision that was made the day before…
Q: Everyone wants to be noticed. How can we make our messages better and more infectious?
Jeremy: At Trend Hunter, our Rule #1 is to RELENTLESSLY OBSESS ABOUT YOUR STORY! Careful word choice can have an astounding impact on the viral potential of your message. At Trend Hunter, we have the luxury of being able to test our word choice and see a measured view count for each test. For most products, the goal is immeasurable buzz and word of mouth. Here’s a sample of how I break it down in the book:
The framework we use at Trend Hunter includes three components: an article must be simple, direct, and supercharged.
Simple: As Jack Welch of GE put it, “Simple messages travel faster, simpler designs reach the market faster, and the elimination of clutter allows faster decision making.” Similarly, author Seth Godin notes that simple messages “supercharge word of mouth.”
Direct: An outsider should understand your value proposition from your 7 words. Your value proposition is your advantage. It’s the unique attribute that explains why I should choose you.
Supercharged: Your seven words should pass the “I-have-to-tell-someone-test.” If they don’t, why will someone else care? You can’t expect your message to drive word-of-mouth exposure if you don’t give people a supercharged story.
In traditional marketing, there is an emphasis on cliché, clever wording, and invented words. At Trend Hunter, we pursue viral, and that means we place our emphasis is on simplicity.
Rule #1: RELENTLESSLY OBSESS ABOUT YOUR STORY