Daniel Burrus (USA) has built a worldwide reputation for predicting technological change and its impact on the world of business. He is the author of seven books including the New York Times bestseller Flash Foresight, and his new book The Anticipatory Organization, and is followed by millions of readers on the social media. He is the founder of 6 companies – three were national leaders in the U.S. in their first year, and five were profitable within the first year of business The New York Times has referred to Daniel Burrus as one of the top three business gurus in the world, and he is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies helping them to develop game-changing strategies based on his methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. I’m fascinated by Burrus’ ability to accurately predict the future and not just guess. Also, I’m interested in his scientific approach to innovation and his methodologies on how to create business models and products that will actually work and succeed. So, we met up and talked about the difference between hard and soft trends and Daniel Burrus’ ideas on a different approach to how companies plan and innovative…
Jonathan Løw: You teach, what you consider to be the biggest missing competency in companies and organizations today: The missing ability to anticipate. Please tell me more about this…
Daniel Burrus: We live in a world that reacts. The pace of change is increasing everywhere, and many think agility is the best way to deal with rapid change. I’m not saying that agile isn’t good, because there are a lot of things that you can’t accurately predict. There will always be changes that come out of nowhere. However, there are an amazing number of things we can accurately predict when we learn how to distinguish between what I call Hard Trends, trends that will happen, and Soft Trends, trends that might happen. Think of it as a two-sided coin. Agility is on one side allowing you to react fast to unforeseen change, and the other side is anticipatory, allowing you to see what is coming and take action before the change occurs.
Jonathan Løw: What do you think of agile innovation?
Daniel Burrus: Agility is basically reacting fast to change. Therefore it’s important to understand that agile innovation is reactive innovation. Agile reactive innovation will keep you in a crisis management reactive role to disruptive innovation by others.
For example, did Uber or Airbnb use agility to come up with their multibillion-dollar innovations? No, agility would not help them leap ahead with confidence. They identified the Hard Trends that were going to happen either by them or someone else, and took action with the confidence certainty can provide. The same Hard Trend strategy is used by Amazon and Apple, giving them their ability to leap ahead with low risk and innovate quickly.
If you are going exponentially fast in the wrong direction, you will get into trouble exponentially faster.
The past few years there have been several large organizations writing and teaching about the subject of exponential organizations and exponential growth, which is valuable just like agile innovation is. But, if you are going exponentially fast in the wrong direction, you will get into trouble exponentially faster. Way back in 1983, I was the first to write and speak about the predictability and power of technology-driven exponential change, and that is indeed an important element to drive innovation and growth. But predictable exponential change is only about speed, not direction. When you learn to identify the Hard Trends that will have a massive impact, you can gain crucial insights for driving business innovation as well as disruption.
Jonathan Løw: You’re obviously right about that, but is that really something we can predict with a high level of certainty?
The three main categories of Hard Trends are Technology, Demographics, and Government Regulation.
Daniel Burrus: Absolutely! There is no shortage of trends out there. The problem is knowing which trends are going to happen and when. As I mentioned earlier, you can divide trends into two categories: Hard Trends and Soft Trends. Hard trends are based on future facts, they WILL happen. It’s 100% certain. You can’t stop them from happening, but you can see them ahead of time. The three main categories of Hard Trends are Technology, Demographics, and Government Regulation. The last one is usually a surprise, but equally surprising is how powerful this can be when you learn how to see the future of regulations. Using my Hard Trend Methodology, you can see disruptions, before they disrupt, and turn predictable disruption into an opportunity. You can see the problems you will have before you have them. You can see the game-changers and take action on them before the game is changed on you.
Jonathan Løw: What is a Soft Trend?
Daniel Burrus: A Soft Trend might happen and is a trend that is based on an assumption and not future facts. There are various levels of assumptions with different levels of risk. The power of Soft Trends is that you can influence them to your advantage. In other words, if you don’t like a Soft Trend, you can change it. My Hard Trend Methodology is a proven methodology that represents a powerful way to manage risk. Strategies based on uncertainty have high risk, strategies based on certainty have low risk. When leaders understand the difference between the Soft and Hard Trends, it allows them to both innovate and even disrupt with low risk.