Predicting and Profiting from the Next Big Thing

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” – Niels Bohr, physicist.

Difficult, yes. Impossible, no.

The alchemy I find most reliable to predict and profit from future trends has always been a combination of observation, listening, instinct, experience, tolerance for risk, and resiliency to bounce back from failure. Through this formula, I have succeeded more than failed, investing both reputational and considerable financial resources in predicting the “next big thing” across diverse industries including entertainment, technology, sports, and products.

The ability to predict what direction the world is moving is a skillset that anyone can acquire. I came upon a new book recently, Non-Obvious , by Rohit Bhargava, in which the core premise is that everyone can become more successful at predicting future trends specifically by improving how to observe and curate meaning from disparate things that are happening in the world.

Bhargava outlines 15 trends, navigational stakes if you will, one of which, “Engineered Addiction,” resonated strongly with me.

Bhargava outlines 15 trends, navigational stakes if you will, one of which, “Engineered Addiction,” resonated strongly with me. The truth is that every marketer wants to addict you to their products and processes since this is where their profit lies. Why can’t they just be satisfied with habituation? Because engineered addiction is the way we capture and continue to hold an audience (customers).

Think of the movie business which produces sequel after sequel. Why? Because an original movie gets you hooked emotionally and is financially successful. Then the company, motivated by the financial success, engineers addiction with a sequel which gives the audience a sense of certainty of another enjoyable experience with the variety of a changed narrative, thus fulfilling two of the basic human needs – certainty and variety. Voila! Continuous profits for the movie company.

In technology there is now emerging a new virtual reality product that is so immersive, it puts the whole engineered addiction process on steroids.

In technology there is now emerging a new virtual reality product that is so immersive, it puts the whole engineered addiction process on steroids. The true emergence of virtual reality devices (under wraps for years now) is blossoming into reality. In its simplest form, your smartphone becomes the portal for the whole process. You download the Oculus Rift app, put on a set of lenses (either in a cardboard folded box from Google or an elaborate yet simple headset from Samsung), slip in your Note 4 Android phone and you are immersed in a world that is breathtakingly addictive. This “engineered addiction” has you pleading for more and stimulates your intention to buy the device so you can continue to experience the content.

A few week’s ago at an NBA Golden State Warriors game, with the league’s approval, we undertook a test with NextVR, a virtual reality company. The goal was to demonstrate the power of engineered attention to drive intention. A single small patented multi-lens camera was placed on the scoring table at center court, positioned at the height of a persons head who would be sitting there. It was entirely unobtrusive. The camera captured everything that was happening – EVERYTHING above, behind, and below. Through a set of algorithms it stitched the views together into a seamless rendering in real time to those of us who were wearing headsets in a suite at the arena. The experience was streamed in real time to NBA headquarters in New York.

 

This isn’t television. It’s not 3D. It’s virtual reality.

 

This technology delivered an engineered experience in real time exactly as if I was sitting there. I mean exactly! The sound and viewing perfectly synchronized wherever I looked just like I do in life, except I wasn’t there. Everyone who experienced it exhorted “Oh my God,” and then wanted to try it over and over. It captured both our attention and our intention to buy it so we could feed our addiction again and again.

Now, this is the beginning of the beginning of the maturation of this product and its promise. But the genie is out of the bottle. It will be engineered to be so addictive that it will be a premium experience for live sports, festivals, concerts, shopping, and travel. There is no end to the possibilities. So, when Bhargava talks of engineered addiction THIS is my definition, formed by my first-hand experience with virtual reality at a Golden State Warriors game.

I can’t wait for all of you to both experience virtual reality first hand and to become more successful at predicting future immersive trends by absorbing key insights from Bhargava’s new book.

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