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The Trendmaster’s Guide: A book review by Bob Morris

The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next
Robyn Waters
Portfolio/Penguin Group (2005)

Don’t be fooled by this book’s diminutive size and brief length. The content is rock-solid and thought-provoking. Waters’ suggestions and recommendations are eminently practical. This book is also written with a style that has Snap! Crackle! and Pop! Usually an A to Z organizing principle is merely a gimmick. Not so in this instance. Waters offers a series of brief but stimulating discussions of 26 subjects that range from A (Antennae by which to “tune in to the little things, the trivial nuances, and the irrelevant data which everyone else misses”) to Z (Zen which embraces opposites, paradoxes, contradictions, etc. while celebrating duality and embraces polarity). Waters urges her reader to learn to practice “the Zen of trend.”

As she carefully differentiates, a “trend tracker” is someone who is alert for indications that help his or her business to stay up to the minute whereas what she calls a “Trendmaster” uses that information to determine where that minute is going. Years ago when asked to explain his effectiveness as a hockey player, Wayne Gretzky replied that others know where the puck is while he knows where it is going to be. Larry Bird once said that when he played basketball, he saw plays develop as if in slow motion and he could “see” exactly what would happen next. There are countless other examples of precisely the same skills on which Waters focuses, all of which almost anyone can possess and then improve.

She may be overstating the case when suggesting that what she recommends is a “new way of looking at the world.” The fact remains, however, that her insights will seem “new” to those readers who were previously unaware of “the invisibility of the obvious” and may have been captive to what Jim O’Toole calls “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” As a result, they have failed to recognize seemingly insignificant indications of emerging trends that (sooner rather than later) determine success or failure in any competitive marketplace.

I highly recommend this book, especially to decision-makers in small-to-midsize companies which have limited resources and thus must somehow do more and do it better, do it sooner, and with less. I agree with Warren Buffett who said something to the effect that “price is what you charge but value is what others think it’s worth.” This is especially true of current and prospective customers. Mastering the use of various tools that Waters provides will help each reader to become a Trendmaster. Because trends evolve in sometimes unexpected directions, the same tools and skills can then be used to make necessary adjustments of the given strategies and tactics.


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