5 future-proof questions to ask people in the know

Leaders should always be asking themselves What’s new?, What’s next? and What’s better?; that’s where the future is. And we can take deliberate steps to answers those questions…

I’ve written previously about the different ways we can gain new insights, one is to exploit anomalies. And to detect anomalies, things that don’t fit, organizations need today and always pattern recognition skills. This means creating an early warning system that can enable you to take advantage of emerging opportunities; as well as maneuver around threats.

How do you stay on top of trends, shifts in behavior, likes and dislikes, etc.?

A few months ago I wrote a short guide on how I stay on top of emerging trends, it’s a quick read and the method is still very much in beta. One of the points I mention in the guide is the importance of making time to talk to people who have specific insight about a particular domain, the insight you can get from these conversations is an “early warning” of things to come.

Before anything, you have to make a list of people who are “in the know”. These can be journalists, authors, strategists, scientists, entrepreneurs, anyone who has domain expertise. Nowadays, a list of “experts” can be created on Twitter as most everyone in the know uses social media to both find and publish their thinking; so finding people isn’t an issue.

After you’ve created a list of people, it’s time to have a conversation with them. It can be a quick phone call or chat on Skype, most people on social networks are used to this; especially if you are referred. I try to make a 30 minute call with someone new every week, this is a habit I’ve deliberately followed to develop an early warning system.

You can do the same!

After you’ve got a call scheduled, take the time to prepare some questions that can get you the insight you need. Here are 5 questions that will get the ball rolling in the right direction:

  1. What’s happening in your part of the world and what do you think it means for culture and business?
  2. What’s the status quo in your world and who’s changing it?
  3. What are you noticing lately, who’s doing something new, what’s happening that strikes your as odd?
  4. How does this suggest a new pattern in your world?
  5. More broadly, how does this possible development work with or against other things that are happening in the world?

Of course, these are starter questions. The point is that you should be aware of what’s going on in other domains; not just what you already know. Most business talk about what they already know, experience and efficiency is the name of the game; but the world doesn’t stay the same very long. Businesses that want to be relevant forever and ever will benefit from developing an early warning system that will help them understand what they don’t know and what they don’t know that they don’t know.

Have your own set of questions? Please share in the comments 🙂