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Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper

- About the Book

COOLHUNTING: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing
By Peter A. Gloor and Scott M. Cooper
Published by AMACOM Books
ISBN 0814473865, May 2007, hardcover, 236 pages, $24.95
Available through Amazon or directly from the publisher

Be cool by staying on the cutting edge of what's hot.

What is cool? It's one of today's most pervasive and elusive questions. No matter who we are, we all have an innate desire to be cool, cultivate cool, and find cool. Whether it's the next hot band, this season's hip new TV show, or the trendy new club that's attracting all the right people, everyone wants to tap into the power of the latest trends in fashion, music, politics, and entertainment.

The enormous popularity of social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster are further testament to our collective need to stay on the cutting edge of what's hot. Now, in COOLHUNTING, you will discover the practical tools you need to find the hottest trends -- and the people who set them.

The art of coolhunting involves zeroing in on the fresh idea that will be the genesis of a hot new trend. It also involves finding the people responsible for the idea -- the trendsetters who will cause others to jump on board. By recognizing who the trendsetters are, you can actually anticipate the next big trend before it takes off -- because cool ideas will grow and expand around these people.

Authors Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper have done extensive research into the fascinating world of coolhunting and its many applications. Now, they explain what coolhunting is, how it originated, and how to explore the power of cool for yourself. They explore the many varied -- and often surprising -- ways that companies like Apple, Continental Airlines, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, and Google have been using coolhunting to their advantage in areas such as product development, marketing, and customer relations.

Filled with real-world practical advice on how to coolhunt, this innovative guide offers the latest techniques, specialized software, and Internet technology to enable you to home in on your targets with unerring accuracy. Prospective coolhunters will learn how to:

    • Emulate the great coolhunters, from venture capitalist John Doerr to founding father Ben Franklin.

  • Discover new trends by tracking message board discussions and blogs.
  • Find and recruit the latest trendsetters among sources like Wikinews.
  • Master the five steps to becoming a "coolfarmer" -- getting involved in the actual creation of new trends by nurturing your own ideas.

A new kind of hip guide for the 21st century, COOLHUNTING is a revolutionary book that redefines the way we think about the power of cool.

- Excerpt


Chasing Down the Next Big Thing

by Peter A. Gloor and Scott M. Cooper


Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper are researchers affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Sloan School of Management and co-authors of the new book, COOLHUNTING: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing, from the American Management Association's publishing arm, AMACOM Books.

Gloor and Cooper conduct research into how social networks facilitate the discovery, testing, adoption, and dissemination of new ideas. The authors have arrived at a set of principles that are forcing companies to reconsider how they invent products and reinvent themselves. Among some fascinating findings:

  • A major, 5-year analysis of 100 Israeli start-up companies showing how willingness to network with competitors impacts business survival rates.
  • An engaging analysis and chart tracking the influence of blues master John Mayall on up-and-coming recording artists. An example of the role of mentorship in "coolfarming."
  • The latest from MIT's Media Lab, including "smart badges" that allow tracking and pattern analysis of interactions within a group of people. See how dancers synch up on a beat and steer the tempo of live music!
  • An incredible analysis of half a million email messages between 150 Enron employees -- with charts showing links that appear to contradict sworn testimony.

Cooper and Gloor are demonstrating their trend-sniffing techniques in a live "coolhunt" running every weekday until May 11, 2007, from 2-3 p.m. ET USA. The coolhunt combines a Web tour with an audio feed through FreeConferenceCall.com.

A log of each day's coolhunt is posted on the Swarm Creativity Blog, where public comments help steer the program. If you're interested in joining us, the access number is posted at the Swarm Creativity Blog, where you'll also find logs of previous coolhunts.

What Is Coolhunting?

by Peter A. Gloor and Scott M. Cooper

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates seem to know which inventions will become new trends. Warren Buffet has always had a knack for investing in stocks that become "hot." Toyota has created a cool trend with its highly successful Prius hybrid car, as has BMW with its Cooper Mini. And Apple has built a cult around its iPod. This book tells you how you can hunt for and predict cool new trends.

Since we began to think about coolhunting, a whole host of people have written about it. Noted author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it in The Tipping Point, and he talked about it in a PBS "Frontline" documentary titled "The Merchants of Cool." Websites about it proliferate. Many claim -- right and wrong -- to know what it is. Others try to describe how it's done. No one shows you how to be a coolhunter, and gives you the tools.

Is coolhunting the sneaker manufacturer who finds the "coolest" kid at the skatepark, studies what he wears, and then uses that in his next design? A bit. Is it as simple as this kind of observation? Yes and no.

We've set out to show you what coolhunting is really about, and give you some ways in which you can become a coolhunter and even a coolfarmer (more about the farming aspect later). We put coolhunting as an activity on a systematic footing. You may think you know what coolhunting is, but we promise you that there's much more to it than meets the eye. It's not as simple as the simple description -- uncovering the source of trends -- often given. There's a lot more to it, not the least of which is to define what "cool" really means.

Lots of people are out there doing what they call "coolhunting." They're searching clubs for the girl who makes a fashion statement different from everyone else, and whose sense of style might be the "next big thing." They're looking for cutting-edge gadgets in unlikely places. But is that all coolhunting is really about?

No, it also concerns how groups of people work together to innovate.

New ideas can come from anywhere. So many of the best ideas come not from the individual inventor tinkering away in his garage, or even in a large corporate research laboratory, but from the collective efforts of groups of people. We see these groups of idea creators motivated by their love of the idea itself and by their devotion to a process of working with ideas that is predicated on nothing more than the great feeling that comes with success. They set out initially not with the thought of making millions (although this happens in plenty of cases), but to meet a challenge, solve a puzzle, and make the world a better place.

As we'll show you in this book, the coolest ideas often come from this collective mindset. "Swarm," for us, is an ideal word to describe that collective mindset, which unfolds as "swarm creativity" within Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs, which we discuss throughout the chapters that follow) [Peter Gloor, Swarm Creativity -- Competitive Advantage through Collaborative Innovation Networks, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006]. [We owe a nod to the expression "swarm intelligence," introduced in a 1989 paper on cellular robotics. Swarm intelligence is a technique for artificial intelligence that is based on the study of collective behavior in self-organized, decentralized systems. See G. Beni and J. Wang, "Swarm Intelligence," in Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Robotics Society of Japan, Tokyo: RSJ Press, 1989, pp. 425(428.] In biology, the term "swarm" is used to describe the behavior of a group of animals traveling in the same direction. We find the creativity unleashed by groups of human animals swarming together to be particularly compelling. So often, humans traveling together in the same creative, innovative direction produce the trends that are most interesting and exciting.

Slowly but surely, some business leaders are recognizing that the collective mind has a lot to offer when it comes to innovation. We see a promising trend: companies tapping into the swirling network of ideas around the globe that may not even correspond directly to the business the executives think they're in. They are seeing that innovation can come from the collaboration of people who share interests but not necessarily job descriptions, departments, disciplines, or other pigeonholes. They view an expanded collective mindset that reaches well beyond the walls of their offices and into every corner of the virtual world.

This is a welcome development, but there's a long way to go. More companies need to give up their closely held, internal innovation models and get out there and find what the swarm is creating. The innovation process will be served best when businesses realize that people motivated to collaborate and innovate because of shared interests, without specific regard for personal gain, creates compelling new opportunities. This is the way to unleash the power of the innovation beehive.

Indeed, as we hope to convince you through this book, knowledge and innovation are often more valuable precisely because they are the product of the collective mindset. We define "cool" according to this very idea. The coolest--and thus most desirable--trends are the ones that feed off of this collectivity, this collaboration. In fact, the process through which innovation reaches great numbers of people is, itself, an example of swarm creativity at work. One example we offer in the book is that of the CEO of Continental Airlines coolhunting for trends in an online forum of frequent fliers. There are lots of other examples throughout.

Swarm creativity, in fact, creates some of the coolest trends for coolhunters to uncover. Google, Amazon, and eBay demonstrate just how rewarding it can be for businesses to employ swarm creativity -- in which they give power away, share knowledge, and allow people to self-organize. How creative swarms behave as they collaborate can even be predictors of the future -- often in rather counterintuitive ways. Who would have thought that the survivors of the dot-com bust in one country would have been the competitors who most shared during the height of the e-business craze? Knowing how to uncover this kind of information is what coolhunting is really about.

Our book is a guide for readers who want to employ the tools of coolhunting, including social network analysis and even an online software tool to which you'll have access. And we show you how to emulate some of the great coolhunters -- and coolfarmers -- of all time. Our role models come not only from the modern world of technological innovation, like the famous venture capitalist John Doerr, but also from hundreds of years ago. Old, stodgy Ben Franklin was, it turns out, one of the great ones. It's one thing to talk about coolhunting. It's another to do it. With the right tools, and with a firm grasp of the axioms by which great innovations -- ones that truly benefit us -- can be coolhunted and coolfarmed, you can be a coolhunter.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Peter A. Gloor and Scott M. Cooper. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this file, as long as the contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact. Thank you.

About the Authors

Peter Gloor

Peter Gloor (Cambridge, MA) has enjoyed a 20-year career as an executive for UBS, PwC, and Deloitte. He currently divides his time between the MIT Sloan School of Management, Helsinki University of Technology, and the University of Cologne, where he teaches, leads research, and writes.

Scott Cooper

Scott Cooper (Newton, MA), a Research Affiliate at the MIT Sloan School of Management, works with technologists and social scientists on a wide variety of projects. He has written extensively on innovation, business economics, architecture, and new media.

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