Interview with Patrick J. Howie, Author of The Evolution of Revolutions

How would you like to be able to identify “the next big thing?”  Not the latest fad, but the next truly revolutionary innovation. Of course we would all love to do that, because the few who are the first to do so will experience tremendous growth and success.  Well, Patrick J. Howie’s new book, The Evolution of Revolutions: How we Create, Shape, and React to Change, doesn’t guarantee you’ll see the next big change coming, but it most certainly puts you on the right path and opens your eyes to what to look for.

Not only did I learn a lot from reading this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s writing style and story telling ability.  I highly recommend the book, and I’m thrilled that Patrick J. Howie was willing to answer some interview questions for us.  Read the interview below to get a good idea of how valuable the information Patrick has to share is.

How did the idea for THE EVOLUTION OF REVOLUTIONS evolve?

I was working with a startup company that was struggling to effect change both within the organisation and with their customers.  The need to change created stress and finger-pointing was the norm.  I was asked to give a presentation at the company offsite, and I explained to them that what they were experiencing was normal.  It wasn’t that people and groups were making mistakes; rather creating change is difficult and wrought with unforeseen problems. By showing them that the process they were going through was the same as some of the most famous “revolutions” – everyone was better able to internalize that creating change is difficult and the creating a revolution is a process, not an event.

The Evolution of Revolutions

What are some recent revolutions in business?

Every industry, organisation, and field is always undergoing revolutions.  The key is to recognise them, decide what you can and should do, and then act.  The most popular and obvious examples today relate to technology.  One example that is particularly interesting is the book-publishing industry itself.  The advent of the eReader is rapidly changing the industry as the traditional paper-book is quickly losing ground to the digital-book.  Each player in this industry must understand how this process will continue to unfold and what they must do to prosper, not just survive, under this new reality.  The electric utility industry is also undergoing a dramatic change, although it may be much less apparent to us.  The traditional utility is effectively splintering into two industries, the company that owns the line to your house or business and the company that creates the electricity that goes through those lines.  Traditionally, both activities were controlled by a single company but the reality of the future is that these activities will be (and already are being) done by different companies.

What do you see as the next big revolution in business?

I see two major movements that are ongoing:

First, the traditional PC, which was the driver of much of our economic growth over the last two decades, is becoming less relevant.  With the ability to access any document or data file from anywhere, people no longer need a powerful personal computer to perform many tasks.  The ability to access and interact with the Internet, which we can now do anytime and anywhere, with just about any digital device, means that we can get access to a very powerful computer, with tons of storage and great software, that is secure and has great tech support, without the need of a personal computer.

Second, the traditional use of the internet to disseminate and find information. The next revolution will be to aggregate individuals behind a common cause.  President Obama is famous for using the internet to muster support for his cause, and we have seen similar uses of social media in the recent political uprisings in the Middle East.  But the aggregation of like-minded people does not have to be for a political cause.  We are seeing a proliferation of sites that aggregate people for much more mundane things.  The most popular set of sites are the group-purchasing sites, led by Groupon, that aggregate a bunch of people interested in purchasing a specific product in order to get deep price discounts.  Other sites are taking this concept and applying it to the support for new projects or even to the funding of new businesses.

Why is identifying future thought leaders important, and how do we go about doing so?

First of all, future thought leaders are the creators of the next revolution: If Mark Zuckerberg is the next Bill Gates, who is the next Mark Zuckerberg?  He or she is working away right now and wouldn’t it be great if we could at least narrow down the field of candidates and understand what they are doing so we can figure out what to do.

Identifying future thought leaders requires us to reject a basic instinct of ours by NOT listening to the current thought leaders.  The current thought leaders are almost certainly not going to be the thought leaders of tomorrow, and they are almost certainly not even going to be able to identify the thought leaders of tomorrow.

But the thought leaders of tomorrow are already starting their revolution, and they are already leaving their marks for us to see.  To find these thought leaders, you must look for those people who have new ideas, who continue to expand on those ideas, and who are getting traction with those ideas – these are the revolutionaries of tomorrow.

What advice do you have for Young Entrepreneurs who are trying to predict “the next big thing?”

Do not listen to the experts; they are almost certainly going to be wrong.  However, do not listen to the “crowd” either, as they are almost as likely to be as wrong as the experts.  You must find the subset of people in your field who understand what is wrong with the current approach/system/product and why it is wrong.  The experts created the current approach and cannot truly see its deficiencies.  The crowd can see the deficiencies, but does not understand why, so they do not know what it takes to improve.  There is a group right now that is working on fixing a problem from the inside – these are the creators of the next big thing.

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