Author Amy Webb (The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream) states “THE FUTURE DOESN’T simply arrive fully formed overnight, but emerges step by step. It first appears at seemingly random points around the fringe of society, never in the mainstream. Without context, those points can appear disparate, unrelated, and hard to connect meaningfully. But over time they fit into patterns and come into focus as a full-blown trend: a convergence of multiple points that reveal a direction or tendency, a force that combines some human need and new enabling technology that will shape the future.”
I highly encourage the read as Webb solidifies much of my thought process in constructing the Funnel of Opportunity. So much, that I update the Funnel of Opportunity to incorporate her ideas on how to forecast. Her 6-step process::
1. Find the Fringe: Cast a wide enough net to harness information from the fringe. This involves creating a map showing nodes and the relationships between them.
2. Use CIPHER: Uncover hidden patterns by categorizing data from the fringe.
3. Ask the Right Questions: Determine whether a pattern really is a trend.
4. Calculate the ETA: Interpret the trend and ensure that the timing is right.
5. Create Scenarios and Strategies: Build scenarios to create probable, plausible, and possible futures and accompanying strategies.
6. Pressure-Test Your Action: But what if the action you choose to take on a trend is the wrong one?
Below is an actual blog post that was written before I read the book. For comparison sake, I added the outline of Webb’s six-step process and broke my post into 6-parts.
1. Find the Fringe: The Funnel of Opportunity is created from the edges of our known markets. It is not about creating a downstream or upstream flow in some funnel; it is about being relevant in our customer’s market.
2. Use CIPHER (Contradictions, Inflections, Practices, Hacks, Extremes, and Rarities): We build upon the known toward the unknown. Always reaching out pushing the edges, looking for adjacency in our markets.
3. Ask the Right Questions: This type of thinking is outcome-based. A defined outcome provides a set of standards so that we can prepare for our engagements. By having these standards, it creates a set of boundaries for us to work in and when we hit an obstacle, it is just a pause because we know where we are headed.
3. Calculate the ETA: Adjacencies arc growth opportunities that allow a company to extend the boundaries of the present customer base.
4. Pressure-Test Your Action: Whether we seek to engage is based on the evaluation or the difference in the markets, technology, processes, environment(platforms), and the existing competitors.
5. Create Scenarios and Strategies: There is no linear path. It is a matter of clustering and attempting different scenarios till obvious connections take place. Large clusters may splinter while others may grow together.
6. Pressure-Test Your Action: The idea is through practice, deliberate practice that these adjacencies are nurtured.
Is your marketing system creating the forward thinking that you need? It is just not using predictive analytics, though big data helps. It is also developing the mind-shift that forecasting, recognizing trends should be a large part of your efforts. The cliche I have used for years is that the role of marketing is just not getting the message out, it is just as much getting the message in. Putting the ideas of a futurist such as Amy Webb into practice can be a good start. Remember, the USA Principle: Understand-Simplify-Automate.
The ideas Webb discusses in her book has helped me refine a few of the methods I use in the Funnel of Opportunity. It has helped me develop a better practice routine in spotting trends. I believe it gave me a better feel for future opportunity. Not everyone will incorporate it the same way. But how powerful can it be if you can develop a way of “work” to incorporate the future in our everyday work? And, the more you practice the better you get.