Are you interested in learning how to curate trends? More than likely this is not something you’ve thought about. But if I were to ask you if you aspire to develop the ability to spot trends, you would probably say yes. Why is that? People talk about spotting trends, not curating them. In the book, Non-Obvious, Rohit Bhargava walks you through the process of curating trends. He doesn’t believe in trendspotting and annual predictions, because he thinks it’s lazy thinking – it’s too obvious, and not non-obvious.
Rohit Bhargava started writing about predictions because he wanted to understand marketing, and how technology was shaping it. Since he first started, his vision has evolved and morphed. Now he believes that “signs of the future are already here in the accelerated present.”
“Long-term decisions start in the short term, so understanding how the world is changing in real time is far more valuable immediately than trying to guess what will happen in the world 20 years from now.”
Initial Thoughts on Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future
I also have Non-Obvious 2016 and Non-Obvious 2017. Part I of the book is the same for all editions, because the author walks the reader through the process of trend curation, which is a very valuable skill to have.
In the latter part of the book, he talks about the non-obvious trends for the year, and how to make the trends actionable. This summary’s focus is on how to curate trends, so you too can learn how to do it for yourself. This ability can take your business into the stratosphere.
“The simple aim of this book is to teach you how to see the things that others miss. I call that “non-obvious” thinking, and learning how to do it can change your business and your career.”
Five Big Ideas from Non-Obvious
- The goal of an art curator is always taking individual items and examples and weaving them together into a narrative. Curators add meaning to isolated things by organizing them into themes that tell stories. When you collect things, reflect on them to understand what you are seeing. What stories can you tell?
- Curiosity is the precursor to discovery. Always want to know more, invest the time to investigate and ask questions.
- Redefine your comments and thoughts, so they are meaningful. Become comfortable with silence. Use the pauses as the time to get the words right.
- There are three elements of a trend: Idea, Impact and Acceleration. Great trend ideas are unique descriptions of a shift in culture, business and so on, in a concise way to be meaningful. A trend has impact when it causes people to change behavior or a company to adopt. Great trends are likely to continue to affect business and consumer behavior.
- Create unique experiences instead of selling products.
Summary of Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future
To curate trends, Rohit Bhargava uses the Haystack Method which I will talk about later in this book summary.
“The Haystack Method describes a process where you first focus on gathering stories and ideas (the hay) and then use them to define a trend (the needle) that gives meaning to them all collectively.”
5 Myths of Trends
- Trends are spotted.
- Trends are predicted.
- Trends are based on hard data.
- Trends only reflect current popularity.
- Trends are hopelessly broad predictions.
4 Reasons Why Trend Predictions Fail
- No Objectivity: Our bias based on the world we know. Losing objectivity leads to wishful thinking.
- No Creativity: Great trends are never obvious, lazy thinking is easier than informed and creative thinking.
- No Proof: Illustrate why a trend matters by sharing stories to substantiate claim.
- No Applications: What can someone do differently because of understanding a trend? Most trend predictions do not provide information on application.
5 Habits of Trend Curators
Rohit Bhargava developed the five habits of trend curators based on the extensive work he did. In the process of getting to the five habits, the author read a dozen books by trend forecasters, futurists, and interviewed several art curators, as well as taught his students how to curate ideas. Based on that, he was able to distill the five habits.
- Being Curious: Always want to know more, and invest the time to investigate and ask questions.
- Observant: See small details in stories and activities that others may ignore or fail to see as important. Train yourself to see more of the small things.
- Fickle: Move from one idea to the next without becoming fixated, developing deep biases, or over-analyzing each idea in the moment. It’s capturing an idea without fully understanding what it means.
- Thoughtful: Take the time to develop a meaningful point of view, and patiently consider alternative view points before finalizing the idea.
- Elegant: Seek beautiful ways to describe the ideas that bring together disparate concepts in a simple, understandable way.
5 Components of the Haystack Method
Step 1: Gathering
Collect stories and ideas from your interactions with people or with content. You have many encounters every day. You have conversations, watch TV, read books, travel around your city, go to museums and art galleries. These are sources to collect ideas.
How to Gather Ideas
- Start a Folder: Store handwritten ideas, articles ripped from magazines, print articles from the internet that interest you. Keeping a physical folder is old school, but there is something to be said about flipping through information, and touching pieces of paper.
- Always Summarize: When you print an article, jot down a few thoughts about the piece and why it sparked your interest. This saves a lot of time when you return to the information months later.
- Seek concepts, not conclusions. Be fickle. Gather, save, and move on with life.
Step 2: Aggregating
- Take individual ideas and disconnected thoughts and group them together based on bigger ideas.
- After gathering ideas, choose a time to combine early results of your observation and curiosity with thoughtful insights about what it means and how it fits together.
- Aggregating means adding meaning to the ideas and stories. This personalizes things when you add your impressions.
How to Aggregate Ideas Effectively
Why do the ideas really matter? This gives meaning when aggregating them.
- Focus on Human Needs: Focus on bigger human emotions to see why the idea matters. Review Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs. Connect the idea with the basic needs behind them.
- Recognize the Obvious: On your journey to uncover non-obvious insights, there is value in recognizing and embracing the obvious to find the non-obvious.
- Follow Intuition: When you train yourself to be more observant, you start to develop a feel for the stories that feel significant or fit together.
Have you read?
Step 3: Elevating
What interests you most about the idea? What is below the surface? What is the bigger picture? Think about the underlying themes that relate one group of ideas to another, to describe a broader idea of shift. Elevate an idea to make it bigger and more encompassing. Make connections across industries. Aggregate multiple groupings of information together into something that might be a trend.
Step 4: Naming
- Involves describing an elevated idea in an easy to understand and memorable way.
- Shares a specific point of view.
- Great trend names convey meaning with simplicity.
- Finding the name for an idea is important.
Step 5: Proving
Ensure that there are enough examples and concrete research to justify why the idea does indeed describe an accelerating present enough to be called a trend. Something is not a trend because you say it is. Find supporting documentation. That’s why it’s important to keep track of gathered information in a folder.
3 Elements of Trends
For the three elements of trends, think of a Venn Diagram. Three circles – Idea, Impact, and Acceleration – overlapping, and the overlap is the non-obvious trend.
Idea: Great trend ideas are unique descriptions of a shift in culture, business, or behavior in a concise enough way to be meaningful.
Impact: A trend has impact when it causes people to change behavior, or companies to adapt what they are selling or how they are selling it.
Acceleration: The last critical element to great trends is how likely they’re to continue affecting business and consumer behavior in the future.
Applying Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future by Rohit Bhargava
You have read the information in this summary, and may think it’s interesting, but doesn’t apply to you. I get that, not everyone is interested in curating trends. However, I’m known for using information, tools and resources in ways they were never intended. The Haystack Method is a very useful tool for curating your ideas from the books you read.
For instance, you’re participating in the Strategic Reading Challenge, which means that you are reading five books each month. At the end of the year, you would have read 60 books, which have taught you the 10 key skills as well as cultural awareness. You’ve been instructed that when you read a book, you must take detailed notes. When reviewing your notes, you extract the five big ideas. At the end of each month, you have 25 ideas to play with.
Once again, the five stages in the Haystack Method are:
In this context, Gathering represents the detailed notes that you take from each book you read. After reviewing your notes, you extract the five big ideas from the book. When Aggregating the five big ideas from each of the five books for an entire month, connect them with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Why does each idea matter? Why should anyone care about it? How can you group the ideas together? One thought is to group them by skills. However, several skills are related to each other, so you could find an encompassing group to use. You have a lot of flexibility here.
When it comes to Elevating, you have 25 ideas at the end of each month to combine in any way. You can combine ideas across skills, industry, the sky is the limit. Rohit Bhargava says to follow the money. Some ideas have an underlying revenue factor, what would happen if you explored that angle to see where it leads? Naming your idea makes it easier for you to explain it. And choose a name that people will immediately understand the meaning of the idea. In Proving the ideas from the books, some of that may be done for you, based on the author’s credibility. However, the way you combine the ideas may be more intuitive. Have you come across other information that have led you down that path? That’s something to think about.
Final Thoughts on Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future
Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future is a resource that you can refer to time-and-time again. Therefore, it’s very much worth the read. As I have said in many other posts, I have trouble spotting ideas. But now that I have re-read my notes on Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future, in relation to the notes of the other books on ideas that I recently read, the process is no longer as daunting.
Book to Read