Imagine the possibilities if we, as learning leaders, could look into a crystal ball to predict the future so we’d know where to invest our time and resources. It may seem impossible, but the reality is, it is entirely feasible for all of us to predict trends – not with a crystal ball, of course – but rather through the curation of ideas and by making non-obvious connections between them.
Rohit Bhargava, founder of the Influential Marketing Group and best-selling author of Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict the Future, is a trend curator and expert in helping brands and leaders be more influential. He teaches marketing at Georgetown University and keynotes around the world – in fact, he delivered the keynote for us at the 2015 Leading Learning Symposium and appeared as a previous guest on episode 9 of the Leading Learning podcast.
This time around, Jeff talks with Rohit about a few of his specific trends for 2017, the process of trend curation, and the role that curiosity plays in curation and learning.
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[00:20] – Thank you to YourMembership, sponsor of the Leading Learning podcast for the first quarter of 2017. YourMembership’s award-winning learning management system, CrowdWisdom, provides organizations with the means to manage all of their educational content formats in one central location, and also provides tools to create and deliver assessments, evaluations and learning communities.
[1:07] – YourMembership is also the executive sponsor of our upcoming Leading Learning event, Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD). LTD is an virtual event designed specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development. We launched LTD as a successful face-to-face event in 2016 but decided to try it out as a virtual event for 2017. The goal of the event will be the same – to help attendees find new and better ways to engage learners and create lasting impact through the effective use of technology. The event will take place March 1-3, 2017. You can get our preferred pricing rate – $100 off the full rate – through the end of January. Listen to the podcast to get a code that will enable you to take an additional $50 off.
[02:20] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Jeff interviews trend curator and best-selling author, Rohit Bhargava.
[04:24] – Introduction to Rohit and some background information about who he is and what he does.
[06:14] – You define a trend as a curated observation of the accelerating present. Can you talk a little more about the concept of the accelerating present and how you look to that for the trends that you’re identifying? Rohit says the present is very important to him because he predicts what’s likely going to happen in the coming year, not in the far off future. He actually rewrites 35% of his book each year because he publishes 15 brand new trends and looks backwards at previous trend predictions and how they fared. The new trends are the most non-obvious but trends that he predicted in years past should seem perfectly obvious now because they’ve accelerated to a point where they are now mainstream.
[08:31] – You characterize curation as being the essential part of what you do. Can you talk a bit about curation, what it means to you, and what the essential parts of your curation process are? Rohit explains that the role of a curator is to decide what to show as much as it is to decide what not to show. He likens his approach to that of a museum curator, trying to tell a story. He spends a lot of time gathering ideas throughout the year through many different sources and then he starts to put the pieces together to say what they all mean. Rohit adds that he’s generally not a fan of the term “trend spotting” because he doesn’t think that exists. Instead he prefers “idea spotting” because ideas are all around us. Essentially, you need ideas in order to identify a trend. See “The five steps of the ‘Haystack Method’ of trend curation” to learn more.
[10:50] – You’ve been curating trends for a long time. Has anything fundamental changed about your process over the years, or even since the last book? Rohit shares the first trend report he did was in 2011 and it was digital, without a book behind the methodology. In the first two years it was only focused on marketing but now the trend report has 5 different categories (with 3 trends in each) including: marketing, consumer behavior and culture, media and education, technology and design, and economics and entrepreneurship. He’s broadened the focus to show trends that are happening in business and customer behavior, rather than a lens of marketing or industry. Rohit focuses on providing multiple examples from many different disciplines in each trend because to really innovate you have to look outside your industry.
[13:14] – Curiosity is one of the key habits of curation that you highlight – a habit that, obviously, is very important to learning in general [Note: the five habits are: Being Curious, Being Observant, Being Fickle, Being Thoughtful, Being Elegant]. With all the distractions that now crowd our lives, is meaningful curiosity in danger? And is there more we could all be doing to cultivate a truly productive curiosity? Rohit acknowledges that curiosity is in danger because there’s a lot of algorithmic pressure on us to just read the things that we agree with. He emphasizes you really have to be intentional about consuming what he calls, “brainful media” instead of “brainless media”. Rohit offers tips when it comes to training yourself to be more curious. For example, he recommends, buying magazines that aren’t targeted towards you. He talks about the value, not only in the articles, but also in the ads, because you get to see how marketers are communicating to that segment.
[16:59] – I’d like to touch briefly on a few of the trends (out of 15) that you identified – two of these feel – at least on the surface – like threats, one like an opportunity:
Passive Loyalty – As switching from brand to brand becomes easier and technology empowers consumers – a new understanding of loyalty challenges brands to get smarter about earning true loyalty. Can you talk a little about passive loyalty and also with an eye towards membership organizations and how that may apply there? Rohit urges that you first need to understand there’s a difference between passive and active loyalty even though both of those individuals in a membership organization, or otherwise, may be classified as “loyal”. It’s easy to say that just because somebody has paid their dues, they are loyal but they may be passively loyal. If you are able to determine who is actively loyal vs. passively loyal, you need to figure out what the actively loyal people in your organization do more often. You can then look at how to get people to do more of that actively loyal behavior. Rohit also gives a few examples regarding loyalty programs.
[22:02] – Deep Diving – While our shrinking attention span leads people to consume information more selectively, many people prefer to dive deeply into experiences that truly capture their interest. This sounds like an opportunity for people/organizations in the education business. What’s your perspective on that? Rohit says what’s actually happening is that we are becoming smarter at filtering super quickly but sometimes that leads us to find things we want to spend time with. He gives the example of Wired magazine’s Longreads to show that people will spend time reading long articles they are interested in when they have time. Jeff adds that now might be a good time for smaller, much more focused, deep dive events because they are less overwhelming – something he refers to as boutique learning (See our previous podcast episode, Grand Design and Boutique Learning to learn more).
[25:36] – Self Aware Data – Rather than relying on human analysis, the combination of artificial intelligence and better sensors is allowing data to predicatively organize itself, identify insights and often create its own actionable conclusions with little or no human intervention. Tell us a little more about your perspective on self aware data and maybe from the perspective of what that means for human beings, and what and how we need to learn if machines are going to be doing all of this? Rohit shares he included this trend now because there are more and more situations where we are relying on the data to organize and come up with solutions itself. He touches on a few examples: robo-advisors in the financial services industry, algorithms to track data for farming, industry 4.0/robots in manufacturing. As far as what this does to job prospects, Rohit says there’s a good body of research showing that the jobs of the future are those that are uniquely human – the challenge is helping people to retrain/refocus themselves on these types of jobs.
[30:30] – What trend from the current edition do you find most fascinating/compelling, and why? Rohit admits that it’s hard for him to choose but the one that often stands out for people is Fierce Femininity (as gender continues to become more fluid, fiercely independent women are increasingly portrayed as heroines, seen as role models and changing the world). He says you usually wouldn’t see the word “fierce” associated with femininity, yet that is something prevalent that’s starting to happen, and not just in the US but around the world.
[33:17] – How do you take trends and then actually make them applicable within your particular organization? Rohit shares that when it comes to predicting trends, really anyone can do it because each of us has the potential to engage in intersection thinking – making connections between stories that may not seem like they’re associated with one another but if you apply the right lens and put the right process behind it, you start to see those connections. He explains that doing this and being more innovative, is totally teachable, but most of just haven’t had the opportunity to learn how. If we can lead ourselves towards a more non-obvious world, instead of just surrounding ourselves with obvious things that everybody’s talking about, that’s better for everybody.
[35:41] – Do you have anything new in your bag of tricks (since we asked in your last interview) as to how you go about learning on a daily/weekly/yearly basis? Rohit reveals the biggest thing he had to learn, since we are often taught the exact opposite, was to spend money and time getting better at the things he’s already good at, as opposed to those things he does badly. For example, in the past year while he was teaching public speaking and storytelling to Georgetown students, he did a Master’s level, two-day intensive course on becoming a better keynote speaker.
[37:46] – How to connect with Rohit and/or learn more about having him as a keynote speaker:
For information about speaking and to see videos: https://www.rohitbhargava.com/speaking
[38:50] – Wrap Up
Thanks again to YourMembership for sponsoring of this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
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[40:48] – Sign off