Discover more from Admired Leadership Field Notes
Keep an Eye on the Fringe
What is true for music, fashion, art, and technology is also true for businesses and non-profits. Innovation begins on the fringe, not in the mainstream. Emerging trends appear on the periphery of whatever is popular and well-accepted.
The best leaders hunt for the future by learning what is happening outside the normal ropes. They pay attention to nascent technologies, unconventional practices, and fast-rising competitors. What are others doing that seems unorthodox or offbeat? They recognize that conventional practices blind them to what is possible and what the next new thing might be.
Everyone on the team is asked to scan the horizon and scour the entrepreneurial landscape, looking for new and emerging trends worth learning from. Good leaders remind the team that the future often sneaks up on an enterprise and disrupts its ability to compete. By the time a new trend becomes mainstream, it is often too late to respond effectively. Leaders and teams that fall asleep at the wheel of their success can pay the ultimate price.
This doesn’t mean every new idea, process, or product should be taken seriously. But learning what is happening on the fringe often allows leaders to improve their own work without embracing or reacting to anything but insights gathered in their pursuit.
As the writer William Gibson once noted, “The future has already happened, it’s just unequally distributed.” Knowing what is occurring on the boundaries of established practices is essential work for leaders and teams. What happens on the fringe can make enterprises better or destroy them. That’s probably worth knowing now.