As Bob Dylan so rightly prophesied in his classic song ‘The times they are a changin,’ the world of industry is evolving at a rapid pace. Okay, so Dylan may not have been singing about industry, but you get our point. The world does not stand still, and clever people are coming up with innovations on a daily basis to make our lives better. This is particularly prevalent in business, as companies are forced to keep up with the latest trends to stay ahead of their competitors. The times are changing, but that can only be a good thing. Well, kind of. We aren’t sure robots taking over the workplace is a good idea, but that’s a subject for another day.
Should you run a business, you may be frustrated at the way industry is rapidly moving forward. It can be hard to play catch-up, and when you have just gotten used to one piece of tech, another comes along to replace what has quickly become outdated. For the less tech-savvy among us, this can be confusing. Back in the day, tablets were taken to cure a physical headache, but when you are told they are now required to cure your business headaches, you may well be baffled. Surely life was easier in those halcyon days when you only needed to be armed with a pen, paper and some sticky notes! Well, those days are gone, my friend.
So, how can you stay ahead of the curve in the constantly shifting landscape of industry? Here are a few ideas you may find useful.
Focus on your own industry
You don’t have time to keep up with every industry trend, and while there are some that will be common for most businesses, there may be specific ideas you need to be aware of in your own field. Take for example a manufacturing business, who will want to know the latest innovations in machinery to make operations run more productively. This may include knowing which products are more efficient in the manufacturing process, such as hybrid stepper motors which deliver greater precision than traditional stepper motors. Would you know the difference? If you’re in this field, you should! Knowing how to improve your business takes a little bit of know-how in what is happening in your field, and making use of the tech available to deliver a better product or service to the customer.
Believe it or not, you can still subscribe to magazines and trade journals that are made of actual paper! Okay, you can still read articles on your iPad or smartphone if you want to, but there’s nothing like the feel and smell of paper, and you won’t have any distracting pop-ups or social media alerts getting in the way of your study. Whatever format you choose, reading is something you need to get used to if you want to find out about the latest developments in your industry. Subscribe to industry-specific journals, and find out what the experts in the field are saying. Grab a marker pen (assuming you are still reading the paper copy), and mark out pieces of interest. There will be a lot to read, but some of the information will jump out at you, and may be a cue for you to embark on further research into a particular area of interest.
Engage in discussion online
There are sure to be specific websites devoted to your industry, so as well as reading the many interesting articles for trend updates, engage on any forums and discussion boards that may be part of the site. Yes, there will be people who don’t know what they’re talking about, and will waffle on regardless (such as that guy you met at the conference the other week), but there will be people who have their finger on the pulse, which will pique your interest and give you some useful information. Other websites to focus on include Reddit and LinkedIn, places that are not limited to your industry, but which will have groups and private forums where you will gain sources of enlightenment from others.
Engage in discussion offline
You won’t get far in business if you operate as a lone ranger, so engage in discussion with other people working within your industry. There are plenty of people out there able to give informed advice, and you will meet people like yourself who are trying to keep up with the latest happenings in your field. So, where to start? Well, get yourself to conferences and meet other people operating within your area of business. Start a conversation, and you never know what useful titbits of information you will pick up. Take part in structured workshops at local events, and pool ideas with others. And if there is no event happening locally to you? Start your own, even if you go small-scale and simply share ideas over lunch with other industry professionals.
Get to know industry leaders
Now, we aren’t suggesting you stalk industry leaders online (or on the high street), as they won’t take kindly to your persistence or questioning. Turning up at their front door when they’re just about to enjoy dinner with their family isn’t a good idea, either. However, go to the places where you can meet them formally. Again, conferences are incredibly useful places to for anybody involved in business, as many industry leaders will be on public view as keynote speakers. Listen to what they have to say, make notes, or sneakily record them on your smartphone. This may be enough in itself, but if you want to know more, try and speak to them on a one-to-one basis on the conference floor, and ask them those burning questions you have pent up inside you. They may even agree to spend more time with you at your place of work and have a meeting with you and your colleagues to further elaborate how your business can stay on the ball. Just don’t forget to lay out the red carpet and have a buffet prepared to make their visit worthwhile. Note: the red carpet was a joke, no matter how esteemed they are!
Spend even more time online
As well as reading articles, engaging in forums, and inviting industry leaders to be your Facebook friend, there is even more you can do online. This includes listening to podcasts from industry experts and watching videos on popular sites such as YouTube, where you will find many recorded debates, conference highlights, and tutorial tips on the latest tech available in your field. This is especially useful if you can’t always make it out of your office, and when big industry events are happening halfway around the world. The internet is a fantastic source of information for whatever industry you are involved with, and you may wonder how business leaders coped without it in those supposed halcyon days.
Find out what your competitors are up to
Remember the business lunches we mentioned earlier? These are also a sneaky way to find out what your competitors are up to. Buddying up with them will give you an insight into how they are developing their companies, as they may be aware of innovations that you somehow haven’t been made privy to. You can gather information in other ways. While you could send one of your colleagues undercover to spy on them, it may be safer to have a look at their website and try to gather information that way. For example, what materials are they using in their products? What payment methods do they have available? What are they saying in their ‘about us’ section of the site? Pick up any useful info you can, and if they have found new ways of doing something, consider the viability for your company.
Staying up to date with industry trends will give you greater chances of success in business. Do what you can to keep up with the latest happenings, and implement changes in your company. Yes, there will be new innovations down the road, but take advantage of what is currently happening in your field now, and focus on those areas that will be most useful to you and your customers.