By definition, advancing business requires change. If growth is your goal, how do you move business forward? Which mindset do you embrace?

– Status quo?
– Copy the innovators?
– Innovator?
– Trendsetter?

According to Phil Simon, writer for, companies that fail to understand and quickly adopt emerging technologies will become obsolete. Furthermore, he says, “It has never been more important to understand the customer experience which requires new tools, data sources and mindsets.”

Whether you follow the leader or are the leader, how can you keep up with the speed of change and pre-empt tomorrow’s trends today?

Perhaps the answer lies in the theoretic constructs of the 2009 book, Freakonomics, where authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner study the riddles of everyday life. One such riddle is being studied by social scientists and business strategists alike.

What is the connection between chewing gum and smart phones?

Two seemingly unconnected items have a direct impact on consumer behavior in the checkout aisles in grocery stores, supermarkets and big-box retailers.

Market researchers say smart phones have caused the death of in-store impulse buying; smartphones are to blame for the sharp decline in chewing gum sales.

A few years ago, shoppers filled time by browsing — and buying — the magazines, candy and gum that lined checkout aisles. Today, waiting in line shoppers scan the Internet, check social media and read emails on their hand-held smartphones while waiting in line to pay for their goods.

Subsequently global gum sales have declined 15 percent since 2007, the year the iPhone came out!

So what can you do to anticipated changes in the marketplace? Simple, but not easy: always be learning, remain alert and intentionally look for ways to collaborate.

Become an Awareness Vigilante

In a recent speech, Masami Yamamoto, president of electronics for Fujitsu, advised professionals to observe critical connections between seemingly unrelated products in the modern marketplace. “New rivals and new partners can emerge from very unlikely places.”  Observing the evolution of the business environment with attentiveness to small changes in consumer behavior helps professionals innovate for the future.

Aside from being an awareness vigilante and maintaining a state-of-learning mindset, the following six practices stimulate innovation.

  1. Listen to educational and inspirational audio books.
  2. Actively participate at networking, association and business events by talking to, listening to and meeting other professionals.
  3. Embrace your entrepreneurial spirit by researching new industries and companies that pique your interest. Learn what sets them apart from the competition.
  4. Scour the Internet for blogs. Blogs often provide an analysis of trends within numerous industries.
  5. Have regular, intentional conversations with influencers and the smartest people you know. Be candid about your business challenges. Ask for opinions. Talk to your customers and clients who are savvy about their own businesses. Do everything you can to absorb other’s wisdom.
  6. Most importantly, seek out partners who can help build the community that supports small business, innovation and change for growth.

Welcoming change, while holding steadfast to the products and services that meet consumer needs, helps business leaders remain relevant. These are a few actions you can take. Do you have others?

How do you seek out innovative growth? What changes have you observed in your customers’ behaviors? With whom do you partner? Share your thoughts in the comments below or send us an email at [email protected]