Why tapping the global brain is vital for insight and inspiration (even when it feels overwhelming!)

Seeing the constant stream of innovations coming in from all corners of the globe is exciting, surprising and invigorating, but also overwhelming. A new app appears hourly, experiences pop-up each week, Twitter and Instagram reveal new innovations every minute and we, as strategists/marketers/interested observers, sit in the middle trying to figure out what exactly we can afford to ignore.

As Head of TW:IN, TrendWatching’s Insight Network of 3000 trend-savvy professionals who send in the innovations they’re seeing and loving on a daily basis, I will be the first to claim that my information overload is up at the top. But, by embracing the overwhelm and focusing on aspects of innovations, it swiftly turns from overload to opportunity – and, by doing the same, brands can quickly see the importance of tapping the global brain to gather the best and most unique insights.

From all the innovations we see from TW:IN, we look for clusters of similar innovations. Not similarities in region or industry, but similar in the way they meet and serve consumers basic needs. By grouping innovations by this, the seemingly-unconnected innovations launched thousands of miles apart – often in different economies, cultures and industries – can uncover bigger insights into where consumers expectations are heading next.

By tracking the similar innovations across the world, observers can identify where the gap lies between what consumers can experience for themselves or read and hear about third hand, and what brands in their own region are providing. And where they are not being served lies the sweet spot of opportunity for brands.

Take these three seemingly unrelated innovations sent to us by our spotter network in the first half of 2015; January saw a Korean café starting to offer customers a 50% discount if they were polite to staff, all to encourage well-behaved patrons. In April, Art Series Hotel Group in Melbourne launched Reverse Reviews: a promotion giving guests the chance to obtain discounts and upgrades in return for being reviewed. And in Lagos, Uber introduced a new policy for any passenger who keeps their driver waiting longer than 30 minutes on a single trip will now be automatically charged NGN 2000 (approx. USD 10).

All three innovations are linked by a common thread: that consumers are increasingly open to being subjected to ratings and reviews from the brands they use, and called out for their bad behaviour. At TrendWatching we coin a trend and publish it for the world to see (and hear about – these innovations are all taken from TWO-WAY TRANSPARENCY, just one of the trends for 2016 trends I will be presenting at the end of January). For brands, by seeing the products, services and experiences your customers are using, reading about and becoming familiar with right now, they can use knowledge to predict where their consumers expectations are heading, and create best-in-class innovations that fit this sweet-spot to meet them before anyone else.

Victoria Foster, Trendwatching London