Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas

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9780385346542: Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas
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Out-innovate, outsmart and outmaneuver your competitors with tactics from the CEO of TrendHunter.com, Jeremy Gutsche.

In our world of chaos and change, what are you overlooking? If you knew the answer, you’d be a better innovator, better manager, and better investor.

This book will make you better by teaching you how to overcome neurological traps that block successful people, like you, from realizing your full potential. Then, it will make you faster by teaching you 6 patterns of opportunity: Convergence, Divergence, Cyclicality, Redirection, Reduction and Acceleration. Each pattern you’ll learn is a repeatable shortcut that has created fortunes for ex-criminals, reclusive billionaires, disruptive CEOs and ordinary people who unexpectedly made it big. 

In an unparalleled study of 250,000 ideas, Jeremy and his TrendHunter.com team have leveraged their 100,000,000 person audience to study what actually causes opportunity: data-driven research that was never before possible. The result is a series of frameworks battle-tested with several hundred brands, and top executives at some of the most successful companies in the world who rely on Jeremy to accelerate their hunt for ideas.

Better and Faster will help you learn to see patterns and clues wherever you look that will put you on the smarter, easier path to finding those breakthrough ideas, faster.

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About the Author:

JEREMY GUTSCHE is an innovation expert, award-winning author, one of the most sought-after keynote speakers on the planet, and the founder of Trendhunter.com, the world's #1 most popular trend-spotting website.  Prior to founding Trend Hunter, Jeremy grew a $1 billion portfolio for Capital One, and today over 300 brands rely on his expertise, including Victoria's Secret, Sony, Coca-Cola, IBM, Wells Fargo, and Hughes Aerospace.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

THE HUNTER AND THE FARMER

Living in an era of unprecedented change, it’s easy to think of our potential opportunities as boundless. But there’s a catch. We must be smart enough--evolved enough--to leverage change. We must get beyond our “farmer” roots and find our inner “hunter.”

Ten thousand years ago, something changed. Someone planted the first seeds, ushering in a new era. Humankind had a reliable source of food, eliminating the time-consuming need to seek out wild plants and hunt animals nomadically. People could stay put, build communities, and acquire possessions. Over the next five hundred generations, predictability and protecting order became paramount. We evolved into excellent farmers. It’s this simple: Once we find a field to farm, we’re neurologically wired to repeat the chain of decisions that led to the last harvest. Today, you can see this wiring in the way most corporations behave. Once a company becomes successful, it creates rules, procedures, and policies to protect the status quo.

Everyone farms. Your “field” might be your job, your product, or your brand, but reflexively, when you find a fertile field, you farm. Your neurological preferences take over and you become protective of your craft, digging in for what you hope will be a repeat of the prior harvest.

While this tendency served us well for the last ten thousand years, it leaves us unprepared for today’s era of rapid change. To break free, we need to better understand our farming bias and learn how to awaken our inner hunter. Yes, it’s tempting to think, “But I’m already a hunter. That’s why I’m reading this book. Why can’t I just hear about those patterns and get going already!” But there’s immense danger in that impatience. If you fall into the traps of the farmer, you won’t be able to fully exploit the patterns. So listen up.
THE FARMER: COUGH SYRUP, AWKWARD MOMENTS, AND SEX APPEAL

Roy Raymond was a 1970s version of today’s ambitious California entrepreneurs. He was a Stanford business grad on the lookout for a commercial concept he could call his own, and he wasn’t finding it pursuing a career at Vicks, the over-the-counter cough syrup company. One day, on a mission to find a gift for his wife, he entered the intimate apparel section of a local department store. The experience was awkward, to say the least. He felt like “an unwelcome intruder,” embarrassed and lost in “racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly, floral-print nylon nightgowns.”1

The discomfort led to an idea: Why not create a guy-friendly shop in which men could buy lingerie for their girlfriends or wives? His idea was rooted in two insights: first, that a lingerie shop geared toward men would make them more comfortable shopping, and second, that truly sexy lingerie would be a hit with both men and women.

In 1977, Raymond begged and borrowed $80,000 from his relatives to launch a little lingerie shop. With its wood-paneled walls, fashionable clothing, and upscale, male-oriented theme, the shop racked up sales of half a million dollars in its first year. That success funded three more locations. Aiming to go national, Raymond launched a mail-order catalog that was the talk of the industry and won additional notice when it was pinned up in men’s locker rooms everywhere. Within a few years, he was adding new locations and reaping millions in revenue.

By now, you’ve probably guessed that Raymond’s store was Victoria’s Secret, although little remains of Raymond’s business model in the international chain we know today. Raymond did many things correctly, including transforming a broken shopping experience into a lucrative retail concept and exploiting an untapped niche, for which he reaped the rewards. But, despite those smart moves, he didn’t see the bigger picture. It turned out, of course, that women buy most lingerie, not men--so Raymond was marketing to the wrong sex. Indeed, the main reason that women shopped at his stores was the fashionable lingerie, but not specifically because it made men happy. Rather, because it made women feel more confident. Raymond missed all that, and eventually his chain was headed for bankruptcy. That’s when retailing magnate Leslie Wexner took the enterprise off his hands.

Within months, the new managers radically repositioned the stores and catalogue: imagery, brand, colors, and styles were all redesigned for a woman’s eye, and the fresh, female-empowering approach worked like a charm. The result: Three decades later, Victoria’s Secret has grown into a $6 billion megabrand.

It would be easy to dismiss Raymond’s talents based on the scale of his blunder. You might argue that he was overlooking the obvious, but don’t forget that his initial stores made millions. He had a proven formula, and he stuck by it for years.

Unfortunately, like many individuals and teams, Raymond was only too happy to play the role of the farmer. Had he experimented more and been willing to cast aside his strongly held beliefs, he might have taken full advantage of the tremendous opportunities his company was poised to exploit.

What opportunities are you missing right now? How many breakthrough business ideas are just a few steps away from what you’re already working on? The reality is that you can’t know. Unlike Raymond, most of us will never see someone else come and do our job so much better.

While Raymond’s failure was catastrophic, his shortcomings are common among businesses and entrepreneurs. Raymond suffered from the three farmer traps: He was complacent with his own success, repetitive, and overly protective of his own beliefs.

As strange as it may sound, one of the hard-to-fathom lessons from these traps is that “being good” at something may eventually keep you from reaching your full potential.
THE HUNTER: COUTURE, BLUE JEANS, AND NO PHOTOGRAPHS

To understand how to skirt these common traps, let’s meet an unlikely hunter, a seventy-eight-year-old man who lives in the bustling Spanish port city of A Coruna. He wears the same blue outfit nearly every day. He eats lunch in his work cafeteria and rarely goes on vacation. He doesn’t do interviews. In fact, until 1999, no published photograph existed of this mysterious man.

Indeed, the only reason he finally deigned to be photographed at all was that he had to as part of his company’s initial public offering. He earned his billions by revolutionizing fashion, and today, he’s the world’s third-wealthiest individual, richer than Warren Buffet and Larry Ellison, and just behind Carlos Slim and Bill Gates.

Amancio Ortega is the creator of Zara, a thriving international chain of clothing stores that you might mistakenly think is like any other, except that it’s completely different. Louis Vuitton’s fashion director calls Zara “possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world.”2 The company doesn’t advertise because it can’t and doesn’t need to. Zara doesn’t carry every design and size in stock, and styles are rarely consistent. And that’s precisely why it succeeds.

To understand how Zara has made Ortega fabulously wealthy is to understand the future of business--in any industry. This is not a lesson in fashion.

It starts with speed. An average clothing company takes several months or up to a year to turn a design into a product ready for purchase. Zara takes just fourteen days.3

Designers and pattern makers craft several concepts throughout each day, which the company speedily manufactures from its local factory. Outsourcing to China is not an option, because distance would delay production. Zara often starts by working with greige textiles, meaning that they are in an unfinished, near-colorless state. Working with textiles in such a state means that they can be dyed at the last minute.

If Zara’s latest inspiration is a little red dress with a collar, five sizes of that design will be crafted and shipped to each of Zara’s 2,000 stores--all within two weeks. Buy that red dress and a salesclerk will ask why you like it. Such questions might seem innocuous, but at the end of the day, the legions of storekeepers report back to the head office. If enough women like the dress but aren’t crazy about the collar, the designer will bang out a fresh collar-free design, and in fourteen days, it will hit all 2,000 stores.

Slim inventory has multiple benefits. The company is seldom stuck with clothing it can’t sell, and advertising is unnecessary, irrelevant, and impossible because there’s no logic in putting a dress on a billboard if it won’t be available next week. And finally, the limited supply reinforces exclusivity. If you’re lucky enough to snare this week’s hot new skirt, great, but if you hesitate, it may never be in the store again. This sparks urgency, tapping into the predator-prey psychology that hooks so many shoppers. Customers also take comfort in knowing that coworkers are unlikely to show up to work in the same dress.

These unusual methods have helped Zara become one of the world’s fastest-growing and most disruptive retailers. In an article on the company, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that the opening of a Zara store is the “signifier of a stylish city,” and it quoted one young woman as saying, “Thank God, we won’t be a third-world fashion country any more.”4

Unlike the “farmer” archetype I’ve described, Ortega is not complacent. He is insatiable. In his words, whether you’re a designer or a storekeeper, “the daily task is marked by self-improvement and the search for new opportunity.” Ortega doesn’t lapse into repetition. Nor is he protective of his fashionable designs. He is relentlessly curious and willing to destroy.

These are the three hunter instincts--insatiability, curiosity, and willingness to destroy.
AWAKENING YOUR INNER HUNTER

While these may sound like simple concepts, putting them into practice is another matter. The first step is to awaken, a process that I was reminded of during a pre-event phone call for a corporate keynote. The company CEO pumped me up Tony Robbins style, despite the fact that I was the one hired to deliver the motivational talk.

He heads a multibillion-dollar insurance company that is growing, though not as fast as his shareholders might like. He wasted no time: “Can I be candid with you? Can we just talk like we’re a couple girls hanging out in a locker room?” I thought, “Well, I don’t get that reference . . . but sure.”

He continued with a salty diatribe that ramped up like a speech delivered by a tough football coach whose team is down at halftime. “Our brand is like a lion. We grew up kings. We claimed our land. But now we’re that same big lion and we’re sleeping under a tree. People come to work, earn their keep, pay the mortgage, and go home. We’re good, but not great. We’ve lost our hunger. We’re a lion sitting under the tree, watching the hyenas as they stalk our territory. They’re coming right up to us. They scratch. They push. They’re eating our food! At a certain point, we need to remember that we’re a f***ing lion. We need to stand up, and we need to f***ing roar!”

Complacency was the enemy of this hunter, and he was more than aware of it--he was obsessed. “Things need to change,” the CEO growled, “and they need to change now. People are either with me in the new world order, or they’re not. And that might mean that not everyone is right for the job anymore. It might mean that the people change. But one thing is certain,” he thundered. “We are hunters, and now is our time to hunt!”

Many of today’s mightiest companies are great lions. They have the ability to claim new territory fiercely, but once they do, they’re often tempted to take a break and bask in their glory. Kings of the jungle, they can’t imagine being dethroned. That attitude doesn’t go unnoticed. The rest of the animal kingdom picks up on this complacency. They smell it and know it. The hyenas become a little more daring and hungry.

Confronted with a business world no longer defined by stability and predictability, you need to adapt. It’s time to step out of the shadows of your predecessors--time to sharpen your weapons. Hunters look for clues, listen for footsteps, and scan for the scents that lead to opportunity. If your spear misses its target, throw another or fashion a better weapon. Hunters constantly reassess signals and seek new patterns that will help them track their next prey.

Now is the time to awaken your inner hunter. Dart in. Feast as the lion dozes! Create a culture of speed and recognize that your key advantage is the ability to understand your customer, adapt, and fashion fast solutions.

It doesn’t matter how big you are. Stand up, claim what’s yours, and roar.
Chapter 2

FARMER TRAPS VS. HUNTER INSTINCTS

Awakening your inner hunter, as I’ve discussed, requires you to better understand farmer traps. It also requires you to develop instincts to avoid those traps.
FARMER TRAP #1: COMPLACENCY

Thirty years ago, baby boomers launched their blue-chip careers confident that their large, stable employers would steadily increase their salaries for the rest of their working days. That world is gone. Today, even well-managed companies fail to adapt, largely because of the complacency that so often insidiously worms itself into a firm’s culture.

In my first book, Exploiting Chaos, I wrote of an iconic, game-changing company that reinvented communication. Innovation was in the company’s blood: It invented the spell checker, grammar checker, and laptop word-processor. In 1989, the company hauled in half a billion dollars in revenue and was still growing. Most people would guess that I’m referring to Apple, Microsoft, HP, IBM, or Xerox, but those aren’t even close. The company was Smith Corona, the best typewriter company in the world.

Smith Corona did dabble in computing in a 1990 joint venture with Acer. But less than two years later, Smith Corona’s CEO abruptly canceled the foray, noting, “Many people believe that the typewriter and word-processor business is a buggy-whip industry, which is far from true. There is still a strong market for our products in the United States and the world.”5

The CEO’s foolish choice of words, horrible timing, and lack of foresight were extraordinary. Three years later, Smith Corona declared bankruptcy, and Acer went on to become, at one point, the world’s second-largest PC company.

Smith Corona is not alone. Over the decades, many once-dominant corporations have fallen from grace. For example, there was a time when corporate yuppies gleefully bragged about their BlackBerry addictions. To maintain its leading position, BlackBerry (originally called Research in Motion) built a strong business brand that boasted unparalleled security and reliability. These qualities provided the company with the equivalent of a medieval castle’s moat, blocking competitors from entering the corporate market. But BlackBerry’s inward focus and complacency blinded the company to the potential of the rapidly expanding consumer market. And that nearsightedness spelled its doom. Mainstream non–business consumers rushed to stylish offerings from Apple and Samsung. Gradually, the upstarts also improved their security and reliability and ate away at BlackBerry’s beloved corporate market. It was the knockout punch Blackberry didn’t see coming, sending it into a vicious downward spiral.

1 Emily Newhall, “A Catalog-Business Boom,” Newsweek, November 16, 1981.

2 “Zara, a Spanish Success Story,” CNN, June 15, 2001, http://edition.cnn.com/BUSINESS/programs/yourbusiness/stories2001/zara.

3 “The Reclusive Billionaire: Secret Life of Zara Boss Amancio Ortega and His ‘Fast Fashion’ Empire,” The Age, March 5, 2013, http...

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