I grew up in Canada. The number one sport there is ice hockey.
Canadians have the same attachment and link to their national
identity to hockey (cultural tip: a Canadian would never call it
'ice hockey') as we do to rugby. If you saw the
gold medal hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics you know what
I'm talking about.
The greatest hockey player of all time was Wayne Gretzky. He was
legendary for his playmaking ability and
scoring touch - he holds all of the main scoring records in the
sport. (In the 'small world/brush with greatness' category -
I went to the same high school as Wayne for a
year). When asked what made him so successful, he
"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey
player plays where the puck is going to be. I skate to where
the puck is going to be, not where it has been".
What he meant was - by anticipating where the play was going to
head, he would create open space for himself. This gave him
more time to make a great pass, or put an extra fake on a
goaltender to score a goal.
Too many businesses play only where the puck is. They battle to
win market share in already crowded product or market
segments. I can't tell you how many business plans I've
heard from enthusiastic start-ups that say things like "We're
going to be Facebook for seniors" or "We'll make a higher
Some possibilities certainly, maybe a good little business, but
they are playing where the puck is now. Their opportunity to
dominate an international niche through leadership will be
Anticipating where the puck is going to be in business
requires a total awareness of the 'playing surface' and what's
happening on it. Your playing surface includes your customers
(past, present and future), your competitors, the countries you
operate in (sourcing, making, selling, hiring), economic conditions
and behaviours, social conditions, and demographics. If you can get
ahead of others as the direction of the puck starts to change,
you can be ahead of the play.
Demographic information is an underappreciated predictor of
future trends. I once attended a lecture on this by Dr. David Foot,
a Canadian demographer who wrote a best selling book Boom, Bust and Echo: Profiting from
the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century. David's premise
is that population
ages are a very reliable predictor of future economic, consumer
and social behavior. If (for example) you are wondering
what the business and consumer landscape in South East Asia might
look like in 10 years, demographic analysis is a great place to
Another method businesses use to try and create open space on
the playing surface are strategic planning tools like Blue Ocean Strategy. Planning
approaches like these encourage businesses to try and create space
between themselves and their competition.
Every business needs to deal with today's challenges, so taking
a longer-range view can seem challenging or even unproductive.
But if your business is going to be Wayne Gretzky-great, you'll
need to think about how you are going to create the open space on
the 'business ice' you will need to let you score at
will. That requires information, analysis, instinct,
action, and a longer-range view of the playing surface than you may
be used to.
NZTE has a lot of great market intelligence information on
our website, and our Global
Market Research team can help you
pull together information that can help your
business create your own open ice!