Do You Pay Too Much Attention to the Latest Trends?


Do You Pay Too Much Attention to the Latest Trends?

Imagine you can travel back in time to meet any of your heroes, arriving just a few moments before they experience an epiphany – an insight that defines the course of their business or career. It might be David Bowie starting to compose Space Oddity. It might be Richard Branson choosing to name his brand ‘Virgin’. It might be Steve Jobs developing his vision for Apple. Or in my case, this person is the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, starting to sketch up the architectural concept plan for the Viipuri Library, sometime in the 1920’s.

You have just arrived at that special time and place… What’s happening? What do you see and hear? What questions are these people asking themselves that open doors in their minds to new, groundbreaking ideas? Could this question be: ‘What’s trending?’

This sounds unlikely, doesn’t it? We can only imagine what questions these creative minds focused on before they were hit by a wave of creativity. But I’m sure most of us would agree that when it comes to innovation and setting a path for the future, being overly concerned with current trends might be counter-productive.

Strangely, the business leaders I meet who want to make their companies more efficient, more innovative and more attractive to the market – and are looking for my help in creating a workspace that supports this vision – often ask the very same question right at the start of our conversation: ‘What’s trending?’

In fact, there are several things wrong with this question, especially when this is one of the first things asked in a conversation about the future of a business.

  1. When you focus too much on what your competitors do, you can easily lose sight of the power of your own uniqueness, and instead keep comparing your business to others. After all, wouldn’t it be more rewarding to attract new business through a standout brand and service, instead of trying to beat the competition?
  2. If you try to keep up with hot trends, you can’t help but become a follower yourself, always one step behind trend-setters. Of course, it’s impossible to be an industry leader by copying what others do.
  3. Trends are changing fast, so staying ‘in trend’ for a long period of time is hard work – a bit like replacing your whole wardrobe at the beginning of each season. Are you really prepared to do this?
  4. The chances are that the latest trends simply don’t suit your business, and taking them on might well make you look rather incongruent. Staying with the clothing analogy – this year’s fashion colours appear to be blue and pale pink. If these are not your colours, wouldn’t you rather wear something else?

Sure, look at hot trends to understand the environment you’re operating in, and to find out where the attention of your market is. Stay aware what’s going on in your industry, so that you can learn from the mistakes and successes of others, and thus make better choices for your own business.

But when it comes to creating a new strategy for your business, developing new products or services, or setting up your work environment, please choose the solutions that work for you, not what everyone else chooses. Think through what innovations would actually align with your business values and purpose, make you stand out from the crowd, and attract the people and opportunities you really want to deal with.

If you happen to meet me in person one day, you’ll find that I’m not a very fashionable person. Nevertheless, people often ask me where I bought the clothes or the shoes I’m wearing, in the hope of finding the same things for themselves. And all I can say is,

‘Unfortunately you can’t buy this anymore. I know it looks new, but I was lucky to find this piece years ago.’

The good news is that when you ‘shop’ for solutions for your business, your choices are limitless. Why would you settle for ‘in-season’ items, when you could get something custom-made and enduring without paying a premium?

As a closing note … Why would I want to meet Alvar Aalto? Because he managed somehow to design buildings from the early 20th century that still look attractive, current and relevant today. Aalto’s designs never looked trendy nor futuristic, but rather timeless – sensitive to the spirit of the place and local culture, but embracing eternal qualities.

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  • Bronwyn

    Excellent piece of writing Anetta. I do think that business owners need to have what’s happening in their industry firmly on their radar, but definitely avoid a slavish adherence to every trend. Some recent research by the University of Queensland looked at the qualities that help a small business survive during severe economic disruption. One of those qualities was “Connectedness” – having an active network of suppliers, advisers, customers, peers and strategic partners who will help the business owner keep a keen eye on what is happening in their industry and community. ,

  • Anetta Pizag

    Thank you Bronwyn. I completely agree. It’s important that business owners are aware of what they are up against, and there’s a lot to learn from competitors’ successes and failures. ‘Connectedness’, as you mention, also means better partnerships. There’s that fine line between being making the most of the opportunities presented by our market, and desperately trying to either stand out or fit in. Just like in any relationships.

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