I Just read an headline that Citi is predicting that the price of Crude Oil might fall to as low as USD 20 per barrel and the Chief of the International Energy Agency predicted that cheap oil is here to stay. Heads off for the person who saw that coming and prepared their businesses for it.

Oil prices and the Euro are tumbling, there’s a world wide shortage of cobalt, gallium and magnesium (all critical ingredients used in high tech products), 2014 was the warmest year in our history, and WWF claims that over the past 150 years 50% of the top soil of the earth has been eroded. Disruptive technologies are putting business quicker than ever before. The super-empowered individual can make or break big companies, skillpreneurs will change the workplace of the future, and inequality questions the future of our economical systems.

Is your head spinning yet? All these changes and facts on this awesome, new world we live in go on and on. It almost feels like the pace of change is following an adaptation of ‘Moore’s Law’ – it doubles every 18 months.

The good thing about future business trends is that nobody can predict it. We can all guess but life would be boring if we knew what was coming our way. The only thing you can do as leader is to have your antenna’s out and be constantly on the look out for changes that might impact your business, tomorrow, next year or 10 years from now.

So, with that in mind here are 4 things you can and should do as a leader to stay in touch with what is happening around you:

1. Understand What Future Business Trends will Affect your Top Clients

The best way to keep in touch with how your business is doing is to ask your best clients:

  1. How are you going in adding value to them?
  2. What behavior(s) would they like to see in your company for them to do more business with you?
  3. What changes do they think will affect their business in the next 5 years?
  4. How could you help them stay ahead of these changes?

If it’s an uncertain future, you sure can’t be expected to answer all these questions on your own. Get your clients input so that you can devise a plan that will work for them.

2. Talk to Advocacy Groups

Connect with special interests groups and understand what drives them. Get a clear view on why they believe what they believe, what they’re trying to achieve and how they aim to achieve this. Understand the impact this will have on the community that you operate in and what you can learn to engage your own customers. Find advocacy groups in your industry and follow what they do.

3. Learn from Start Ups

Visit a start up, understand their business model, see how it could potentially disrupt the traditional companies in their industry. Use this thinking and apply it to your own company and industry. Feel the pulse, understand how they communicate, keep the momentum and rally employees behind a joint aspiration and meaning. Understand how they do things differently and what as a result your own organisation should re-look at and maybe overhaul.

4. Complete a Whacky Course

Steve Jobs did a calligraphy course when he dropped out of college which he later credited for his love for design and simplicity. Learn something that’s completely out of character – try a new language that has nothing to do with where you do business, where you live or even where you want to go for your next holiday. Attend a conference on neurology, 3D printing, stem cell research, medieval history, anything! It doesn’t matter as long as it takes you completely out of your comfort zone and into a field where you have no understanding of awareness of. I promise you that you’ll get plenty of ideas that you could take back and transform your organisation.

Luckily, we’ll not be able to slow down change. The only thing we can do as Spencer Johnson said so brilliantly in ‘Who Moved my Cheese’:

Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old.

So stay on your toes, be ready to adapt and lead your company into ever faster changing times.

Photo Credit: ohad* via Compfight cc