Browsing tricks for observing trends and patterns

Browsing tricks for observing trends and patterns

Ideas are inspired by circumstance.  A great argument for your idea is often to identify how it is part of something much bigger.

Surfing the internet is often perceived as only skimming the surface on given topics.  As you put together your ideas, more thorough research will likely be necessary than simply googling key terms.  Nevertheless, simple searches allow you to cover a very broad array of topics allowing you to spot common trends and patterns.

Try these methods:

Here are some simple tools and tricks to turn a keyword searches into a trend spotting activities:

  • Add names of  competitors to your key search terms.  Though this is a shot in the dark, you may stumble upon some buried press release or blog post explaining how they might be developing your idea.
  • Search for key terms in the patent or trademark indexes.  These sites will start to show you how companies are approaching the intellectual property around your ideas.
  • Set up a google alerts or RSS feeds for blogs or industry watchers like SmartBriefLinkedIn, or even a sub-reddit on your topic of interest.
  • If you don’t have money to afford a big Mckenzie report, consider adding their name (or another research firm of your preference) to your search.  You may be surprised how many times parts of those reports are reposted across the internet.
  • Set up Yahoo Pipes to aggregate feeds and filter them by topics.   Kind of kludged, but it works.
  • Look at tech transfer offices from Universities.  They are hungry to commercialize solutions invented by their professors, but haven’t quite figured out the go-to-market strategy yet.  Though they are typically solutions in search of a problem, you can see how they are trying to position things.
  • Check out a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to see what people are thinking about.

How do you know if it’s a trend?

As you browse through these types of resources, you will notice trends by the following three hallmarks- stakeholders, solutions, and business cases.  You will know something is becoming a trend when those three come into alignment.  It may seem obvious, but each moves at a different pace and are driven by separate forces.

For example, stakeholders are dependent on organizational structure, budget, political alliances, etc…  Solutions are driven by technology, industry competition, and investment.  Business cases are driven by the customer.

You can confidently say that an idea is part of a larger trend when you see activities that show these three things are coming into alignment at a given moment in time.

Tying back to your idea 

When you identify a trend, it  becomes part of your persuasive argument.  As you communicate the idea to your prospective sponsors, you need to show how them that your idea is a way for them to capitalize on the surrounding trends.

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