See round the corner – identifying, preparing and positioning yourself for the next big thing

Crystal ball - see round the corner

Crystal ball – see round the corner

Wayne Gretzky famously attributed the reason for his greatness as a hockey player to his ability to see round the corner.  This is captured in his famous quote that he is able to “to skate to where the puck was going to be”.

Metaphorically, this means you build and prepare yourself to be in a highly advantageous position – in a future business environment – from where you can generate substantial gains and have an extraordinary competitive advantage.

Gains could be purely dollar benefits from early investments, early career move into a “sunrise” industry, larger market share, an innovative product that is ready before the competition, etc.

This concept can be applied to any industry and any discipline.

In other words, you need to be able to “see round the corner” and seek out the next big thing – BEFORE everyone else.

One telecom pioneer famously quoted, “it does not matter how well you do the micro, but you have to take advantage of the macro wave”.

In this post I will lay out a structure to be able to accomplish just that.  This structure is repeatable, effective and takes luck out of the equation. 

There are three parts to this structure:

  1. How and where do you gain information on what the future holds
  2. What do you then do with this information
  3. How do you make your move

1. Gathering information and future insights:

Attending industry events:

As an example the packaging expo in 2015 will be held in Las Vegas in September.  In this expo you will gain insights, inspiration, introduction to new products, interaction with key people in the packaging industry and basically get some idea of where the packaging industry is moving towards.

Almost every industry (eg. pharmaceutical, automobile, publishing, information technology, retail) has some annual event or the other.


While a decent understanding of history is important and a good knowledge of current affairs (in your industry or discipline) is also important, real insights come from reading forward-looking periodicals. These could be industry-specific or a general one such as the Economist

Staying in touch with Academia:

A lot of research takes place in universities. Even by keeping an eye on the changes in curriculum, you can get an idea of where things are moving.  For example, universities now offer courses on Digital Marketing and App Development – something that would not have been offered, say a decade ago.

Following experts, thinkers and successful investors:

If you can network and build a personal connection with such personalities, then you already have an advantage.  Otherwise you can read insights that these people offer, and also follow their blogs.  Seth Godin sends out one thought EVERY day for FREE.  Mark Cuban freely in his own unique style at

Recognizing new business patterns:

Look for, and understand new business patterns.  Whether it is Google that is offering everything for free, Amazon building ridiculously large warehouses, the move towards organic food, business applications and even infrastructure moving towards the cloud, or the value of mining insights from unstructured data, you need to know the potential in these.

Following Venture Capitalist investments:

Venture Capitalists’ business model is completely focused on predicting and investing in the next big thing.  Sites such as help you understand what is happening on the VC front.  Blogs by VCs such as Mark Suster help you understand the way they go about their business.  You can follow some of the top VCs and get an idea of where they expect the world to move.

2. What do you do with the information:

Thinking, connecting the dots and recognizing patterns:

Your reading has to be deep.  It has to put things in perspective with your experience, historical knowledge and other readings.  Only then will you be able to recognize patterns and connect the dots.

Once you internalize the habit of seeing patterns and connecting the dots, you will slowly recognize opportunities.

One of the biggest properties of the digital environment which includes the internet and proliferation of social media – is the sheer scale that is on offer.  Especially in areas such as telecommunication and mobile devices there is exponential scale on offer.

You have to practice the habit of not only recognizing new opportunities, but even predicting them.

Building a roadmap to get there:

While executing most strategies or assignments, you must have a plan. Once you know where you are going, you must build a roadmap and lay out tasks and milestones.  As you execute each task, you will cross (and start checking off) each milestone.  When you cross each milestone, you will get nearer and nearer to your destination.

Having an execution check-list also helps.

Finding the one, two or three things to go after:

Of course you cannot go after every opportunity.  Some will be outside your domain.  But for those that are in your strategic career path, your area of interest or in line with your aspirations, make sure that you step outside your comfort zone.

So you should narrow down your opportunities and then focus on the one (or two, or at most three) opportunities that have the least risk, highest potential for profits and most probability of materializing.

Continuous self-development:

In the bestseller, “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, sharpening the saw talks about the greatest asset you have – YOU.  It talks about how you ought to preserve and enhance this asset.

This you do by continuously reinventing and renewing yourself, so that you can practice the other six habits that will make you highly effective.

You cannot go wrong with this advice from the author of one of the most influential self-development books ever written.

As your reading and thought process point you towards a certain opportunity, you should identify those self-development activities that will position you to reap gains when the opportunity materializes.

3. Positioning and marketing yourself:

When the opportunity presents itself you must go all in.  After all this is what you’ve been patiently waiting and preparing for.

So act you must!

To quote Warren Buffet, “predicting rain doesn’t count, building an ark does”.

If you are looking for investment gains or grabbing market share, then you need to have one course of action.  This could mean having “dry powder” to make substantial investments, or for acquiring a business. This could also mean having a product ready that will address the new environment.

If you are looking for a strategic or key role to advance your career in the new environment, then you need to have a difference course of action. This could mean having a “compelling online presence”, having authored some thought leadership articles or publishing a book that showcases your intellectual capability in the new environment.

As with most things, practice is what makes you perfect.  To “see round the corner” is a personality trait that can also be practiced and perfected.  You should practice this to a point where the results simply do not surprise you!

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