What Walt Disney Teaches About Successfully Spotting Trends
The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out.
Walt Disney certainly never worried about getting the old thoughts out of his mind, did he? He was always 3 steps ahead of just about all his competitors and would be competitors. Very good at spotting trends. And once spotted, he certainly knew what action was required to take advantage of them.
Are you into spotting trends? For business or hobby? Or maybe both? It is a very important skill. An important way to start the process of managing business change and adaptation.
Most businesses do not manage change. Change takes them by surprise. Not a good thing. What these businesses do best is to manage the conflict wrought by change.
Reacting does not equate to anticipating … you must improve your trend watching and anticipating skills so you can change before you have to. A good thing.
Let’s get back to Walt Disney and his abilities in trend spotting and rifts. Rift … what is a rift you may ask? A rift is a big tear in the rules we live by. Not a small tear, a fundamental change in the game type of tear. One that creates a small number of BIG, new winners, and bunches of losers who were sticking steadfastly to the old rules.
Walt was a three-time rifter. Can’t think of any others in that category. He was one of the few people who has successfully managed to find a rift in the continuum of business life, to bet everything he had on it, and to then make a great profit in doing it. And, amazingly, he did it three times. Let’s examine these rifts as a way to learn about spotting trends and acting on them.
Rift 1 … Motion Pictures
The first rift, or trend, that Walt discovered was the motion picture. He noticed early on that movies would drastically change the world of entertainment. Anticipating that there would be a high demand for family-oriented entertainment, he pioneered the development of the animated movie. His first film perfecting the form was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. And the fantastic growth of the rift was launched.
But he was not one to rest on his success … not at all. He kept looking for another change in the rules that would create further opportunity for his business enterprises.
Rift 2 … The automobile
The second rift was in the form of the automobile. Walt speculated that the car was going to change the way that families would get to entertainment. His vision was a strategically located, extravagantly designed theme park could add a new leg to family entertainment and vacations. And take advantage of the new way of family travel rift. So, beginning with California’s Disneyland in 1955, he added a new business around this rift and it has dominated the theme park industry to this day.
Rift 3 … Television
He was now a giant in the entertainment business, but he was able to spot a third rift and opportunity: television. Many people regarded television simply as in-home movies. Walt, however, saw it as an entirely different medium. So with properties like the Mickey Mouse Club, he established the third business to produce a never-ending stream of content for this new market.
Walt Disney was a three-time winner, someone who had a great vision to not only spot important trends but also to see the opportunities that these trends created.
So what recommendations can we draw from Walt’s experiences? Here are three that we offer:
Culture of Revolution
An organization’s culture underlies its ability to adapt and times of dramatic change magnify culture’s importance. Work to create a culture of change of revolution. From this culture, you can spark a new paradigm for creative change from which your strategies will be derived.
Spotting trends and rifts
Innovation and competitive advantage hinge on your effectiveness in anticipating trends and identifying the next big thing. Invest energy and continuously work to improve your abilities to anticipate the important imminent changes. Filter through all the noise and chaos, cull out the trends and identify the opportunities that will be created. Focus your team’s creativity on the most important of these opportunities.
Our government and the business world have invested billions of dollars and significant time and energy to perfect human creativity. Apply the best of these practices to jump-start your teams’ abilities in your own field focusing on the end state of new customer priorities.
Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. You can find him and his writing on G+, Facebook, Twitter, Digital Spark Marketing, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.