To the curious mind, there are many signals to indicate the real pace of change. Some of them are obvious; some, not so easy to see. Non-fiction is one of the less apparent.
Product design can’t keep up with technological development, it’s happening too fast. The same is true for writing. Books and videos are variously useful, depending who publishes them and whether they’re based on evidence or conjecture. Some might argue that everything that hasn’t happened yet is conjecture. I’d say, not so.
To have faith in a trend, traditional thinking insists that you wait until data is available to ‘prove’ the theory. In your market today, to wait for this level of certainty puts you at a commercial disadvantage.
Think about it.
Lots of the products your competitors are developing are known about, but haven’t happened yet. That new pack count or design, the added-value feature: these things exist, even if they aren’t yet available to buy.
That’s why innovation strategies must not be static pieces of work. It’s why you need to keep looking for the signals that indicate what is bubbling just under the surface: where the grant funding is going, which mergers are likely, which retailer is facing a bad year end, where battery development is being aimed.
The same is true for non-fiction writing. By the time the current breed of business and lifestyle gurus have published their next tomes, the world will have turned a few times and what was conjecture will have become measurable fact.
To see a market brand affected by the pace of change take Yuval Noah Harari. Modern-day soothsayer, or prophet of doom? His breakthrough book, ‘Sapiens’, was published in Hebrew in 2011, and in English in 2014. Book two, ‘Homo Deus’: again, published first in Hebrew (2015) and then in English (2016). By the time these books were accessible to the widest readership, some of their theories had either started to fade or had already been adopted. The speed of change means the lifecycle relevance of books can be very limited.
It’s out of date already.
Rapid updates will be needed for Harari’s most recent ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’. As I write this, three months after the book was published, it’s clear that some of the fast-moving contemporary themes (Brexit and current US politics to name but two) will move on very quickly. While e-publishing may allow for this, it will require constant review.
Why does it matter?
Hasn’t history always needed updating?
If even writing is not immune from the pace of change in the modern world, if non-fiction books need updating twice a year, as might be the case for ‘21 Lessons’, then what else should be reviewed? The truth is that the question is no longer – ‘What will change?’ The question now is – ‘What won’t?’
You must choose between watching your future hurtle towards you, or be your own agent of change. Standing and watching is easiest, of course. It also makes it highly likely that you’ll simply stop being relevant. Working to interpret emerging trends gives you the best chance of survival. If you’re doing that already, great. If you plan to review the insight again soon, that’s also excellent news. If you’re working on a response, good job.
It might also be true that you can’t do it on your own. I believe it’s essential to have an innovation strategy – a plan that future-proofs what you do today. And with a bit of help from the right people, you can learn how to interpret the signals from your market that will direct that future business strategy.
2019 is here. Brexit is happening. Yuval Noah Harari might already be rewriting his book.
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Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.