Future Trends and Innovation – #KW2013

Jeremy-GutscheI’m attending KronosWorks 2013 and today’s opening keynote speaker was Jeremy Gutsche, founder of the site TrendHunter which is the world’s #1 and most popular trend spotting website. Jeremy’s session, “Culture of Innovation — How to Create a Culture of Customer Obsession and Innovation” was an energetic kick-off and really set the theme for the conference.

As a lead-in, Jeremy let us know that at times of constant (disruptive?) change we are faced with tremendous threats but also afforded tremendous opportunities.  So how, the question was posed, do we maximize our potential?

First step, he advised, is to answer the question “what is it you are trying to do? – for the answer to that will allow an individual (group) to find their trajectory and realize their ultimate capabilities.

As the session went on, there were several key points made:

  • Success can lead to complacency.  The act of becoming complacent has been going on for tens of thousands of years.  Since humans started planting seeds and became farmers, they became hard wired to do the same thing that would garner the crop the next year. So how do we get out of this mode – this tendency?  We need to re-find our “inner hunter.”  A quote shared from a Kodak executive (you remember Kodak, don’t you?) was “your company’s great culture is the seed to it’s own destruction”
  • Benchmarking can be dangerous.  As organizations (or as HR practitioners???) we benchmark to our competitors and others in our industry too much.  Why aren’t we coming up with the next great idea ourselves?   If we realize that people (customers for example) often just want a better version of what they’ve already been using we figure that we’re doing well and consider the next iteration of our “product” to be enough improvement – or innovation. 
  • We MUST make a cultural connection with people.  People (employees..customers..the general public) will want us to succeed if these feel connected on an emotional level and understand the benefit of their involvement with our brand, idea,  or product.   
  • Innovation begins by observing the end user.  In all industries or lines of business if you actually talk to/listen to the people who are using what you create then you will understand what can or should happen next.     This brings things right back to having that cultural connection  –  “when you create something that connects, your story will travel faster than ever before.”   (and while he was referencing customers in his examples, I certainly latched on to the applicability in our HR program and the need for us to talk to/listen to our customers including candidates, employees, managers, and leaders)
  • There are 3 ways to cultivate “infection” and make it stick:
  1. Make it simple
  2. Make it direct
  3. Make it supercharged

“Portray your product or idea as average and that is all it will ever be”


There were some good concepts in this session for folks who are thinking about innovation from an organizational standpoint or from a personal and individual standpoint.

I often wonder about the ability of HR practitioners to innovate and truly harness their creativity.  There are, unfortunately, roadblocks:  the reluctant CEO who won’t give the go-ahead; the time constraints to just keep the trains running on time; the lack of desire by the weary HR Director to take on any more initiatives.  Put these in the bucket and it becomes easier to either let things go as they’ve always gone or to replicate another organization’s process/practice and say “see – we innovated!”

As anticipated, Jeremy pointed us back to Trendhunter but with a goal (for me anyway) when he reminded us that by paying attention to viral trends and then methodically innovating we can generate ideas – harness creativity – exploit chaos.


Kronos has sponsored my participation at KronosWorks2013 however all ideas and opinions are my own.

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