Happy New Year! 2012 promises to be a wonderful year
with its own unique frontiers. The
word frontier was adopted into English from the French where it means
borderland, the portion of a country where it meets the neighboring
land. It usually refers to a region that is just beyond the area that
is settled.

When I write and speak about the market’s frontier I am pointing toward
place of commerce that is just becoming known, the nebulous space
where possibility takes form and for the first time becomes something
real and concrete as a trading opportunity.

I make it my business to understand short term trends and how to turn
them into value for my clients. Are you doing the same for your
customers or members?

People often rely on facts and experience to plan their strategy. But,
the truth is both of those live in the past. If you only look at data
and what you have been through, it’s like driving while looking in the
rearview mirror!

Some spend all their time listening to forecasters and futurists. I
recommend consistently and systematically surveying these resources as
they provide incomparable value and help chart the way. But, they
cannot be relied upon for immediate implementation because generally
they are too far out to be practical.

With the input of the recent past and the forecasted future, I spend a
lot of time reading and talking to others about emerging trends. That’s
where the market’s frontier becomes visible. Here are five resources to
help you identify emerging trends:

1. Conversations with
peers – ask them what they are noticing, how are their customers
shifting, what new ideas and needs do they see arising?

2. Conversations with your clients – you should have strong, trusting
relationships with stalwart, loyal veterans as well as the capacity to
reach out to fresh blood. Keep the interactions alive. Find out what’s
on their mind, where they see patterns in the marketplace and ask them
regularly about their changing needs.

3. News – every news source brings you news that is by definition new
development, but some sections are better than others for identifying
needs in your sector. Learn what they are and hone in on them. Make
them part of your regular diet.

4. Thought leaders – there are people who make it their vocation to
understand your particular domain. They write and speak extensively on
what is happening and provide ideas on how you can provide value.

5. Boundary crossers – some folks like to span different worlds. Find
the ones who have a foot in your reality. Many new and worthy ideas
come from connecting ideas and practices from one sector to another.

There’s a great story about Daniel Boone, the American pioneer. He was
most famous for his explorations beyond the thirteen colonies during
the USA’s early days as an independent country, though he was an active
frontiersman before that.

When he was in his 80s he was having his portrait painted and the
painter asked him if he had ever been lost. His response was said to
have been, “No. I’ve never been lost. But, I was confused for three
days once.”

Operating at the market’s frontier takes that kind of perspective, a
willingness to connect dots that others have not yet put together and
the occasional drought of clarity that comes with new associations.
Nonetheless, the frontier is where the action is, where new ideas turn
to gold, and the new world is created.