Step 9: Identify Adjacencies

Futuristic Trends

Seeing What Others Don’t

One of the most difficult things to teach people is intuition. Even when you say, “How to become more intuitive?” it seems to have this mystical sound to it. In Gary Klein’s book, The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work, he discusses the ability to recognize patterns as an integral part of intuition.Intuition Model

He says, Once we recognize a pattern; we gain a sense of the situation. We know what cues are going to be important and need to be monitored. We know what types of goals we should be able to be accomplish. We have a sense of what to expect next. And the patterns include routines for responding — action scripts. If we see a situation as typical then we can recognize the typical ways to react. That’s how we have hunches about what is really going on, and what we should do about it. Intuition is the way we translate our experiences into judgments and decisions. It’s the ability to make decisions by using patterns to recognize what’s going on in a situation and to recognize the typical action script with which to react. Once experienced intuitive decision makers see the pattern, any decision they have to make is obvious.

As Klein points out, it is through action and developing a variety of action scripts to pull from the more intuitive, you will become. I liken it very much to a PDCA cycle in Lean. We form a hypothesis (Plan), carry out an action (Do), study (check) what we did, and make our adjustments (act). If we do this often and in small increments, we could make the case that we would develop more intuitive skills. What Klein later discussed is that the action script has a deeper component which we use to assess our actions through a mental simulation or painting a scenario of a process from an existing mental model. In simpler terms, we develop from past experiences a sense of what to do. I relate this process to another Lean term, catch-ball. In this version of catch-ball, it is not done with others but internally within our own mind. We envision a process, tying it to current patterns and react accordingly.

Author Amy Webb (The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstreamstates “THE FUTURE DOESN’T simply signals are talkingarrive 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.

Funnel of Opportunity Introduction

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