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June 14, 2007

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Coolhunting

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 6:05 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing by Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper, AMACOM, 220 Pages, $24.95 Hardcover, June 2007, ISBN 9780814473863
In Coolhunting, Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper claim that you can develop the ability to predict the next big thing. Let's start out with the authors' definition of that ability: "Coolhunting is about finding trends and trendsetters, and the trends we associate with cool make the world a better place. Take the iPod...." Now, whether or not you agree that the iPod makes the world a better place is neither here nor there. The iPod is an observably "cool" object in our culture. But Coolhunting contends that when you are able to identify trends before they happen, you will be able to present your customers what they want before they know they want it. Coolhunting makes you a pioneer.
Using a bee metaphor, Gloor and Cooper explain how coolhunters observe swarms, and describe how this approach works. A group of like-minded people, or a Collaborative Innovation Network (COIN), join together to create, or innovate. That is their organic motivation. These early-adaptor groups produce ideas that can be tapped and applied. Observing a swarm is crucial to coolhunting because when you observe people, what they share, talk about, and create in social network groups, then you can create tools in response. Of course, there are drawbacks to swarms: Enron is a good example of group insanity.
The authors explain that observation isn't the only way to find the next cool thing. Unlike coolhunters, coolfarmers become part of the creative groups, not just observers. John Mayall of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers is a classic example of a coolfarmer who is always connected. Mayall was an incubator for some of the greatest rock musicians to come out of the sixties. Clapton, Peter Green (early Fleetwood Mac), Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones until Ron Wood replaced him), Jack Bruce of Cream and many others.
The authors advocate one major message: innovation is no longer something to be done solely in-house. Instead, they believe that "[n]ew ideas can come from anywhere. So many of the best ideas come not from the individual tinkering away in the garage, or even in a large corporate research laboratory, but from a collective efforts of groups of people."
If success in business means determining your core business and then adapting that core as our customers' needs change quickly, then coolhunting is a skill we all need to master. This book, entertaining and informative about current culture, is a terrific place to start.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.