In my experience in working with multiple companies ranging from a 1-person inventor to multi-billion dollar international companies across multiple industries and working internationally, it’s noticed that one common denominator is that trends are critical. Noticing trends has been some of the most significant value I’ve provided to clients – after all, more than half the battle is “being ahead of the puck” instead of always playing catch-up.

If you are able to find a hidden opportunitiy by the virtue of noticing trends in the marketplace, industry, economic environment and even your people prior to your competition, you’ll be able to create an opportunity to leapfrog your competition and/or propel your results. Of course, noticing trends alone is useless, as taking action is key. For example, if you notice markeplace trends and see an unfilled need emerging, whether it is a $10,000 observation or a $1 million observation doesn’t matter unless you take action on the trend – bring the appropriate experts together, develop a way to fill the need and launch it to your marketplace. Typically I find that execution is the critical component in most businesses; however, in this case, it can be equally important to notice the trend. Otherwise, the opportunity wouldn’t exist. This concept is just as appropriate to your career and your personal life as it is to business success. There is no doubt that if you become expert at spotting trends and tie it together with solid execution, you’ll be successful.

With that said, do not despair if your expertise is not in identifying trends. If you own a business, hire this expertise. If you are focused on your career, hire this expertise (in a mentor) or create a group where everyone has a skill that can be shared (where you are able to in essence trade your expertise for someone else’s trend-spotting expertise). And, in your personal environment, collaborate with your family and friends. Again, relationships are key. No one is expert in everything. Lastly, develop this skillset.

There are many ways to develop this skill. First, just by paying attention to potential trends, you’ll be practicing this skill. Second, several of the options described above can also help you refine this skill. For example, a mentor will not only help you identify trends but will also help you learn how to develop this skill on your own. Third, start by collecting the data. You might not be an expert at identifying trends seemingly “out of the blue”; however, you could be an expert at analyzing data. Once you have put a set of metrics in a trend line (such as year-over-year performance or a monthly trend), it becomes much easier to identify trends.

What’s the harm in putting additional thought into paying attention to trends? Give it a try.