Our pal Jeremy Gutsche, the founder of TrendHunter Magazine - one of the neatest websites around, by the way - has an interesting new book titled Exploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change.
Perhaps you've heard the saying popularized by John F. Kennedy that the Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters, danger and opportunity. That turned out to be a fallacy, but the reasoning behind it is actually not all that bad.
In his book, Jeremy outlines ways you can utilize chaos and the current economic uncertainty for your benefit (shades of Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel saying "... Never let a serious crisis go to waste" perhaps?). For example:
Crisis creates opportunity
Prior to the Great Depression, the only cereal brand that mattered was Post. After your great-grandfather silenced the piercing bells of his wind-up alarm clock, he savored the delicious taste of Post Grape-Nuts. Launched in 1897, the cereal dominated the marketplace leading up to the 1930s.
As the Great Depression tightened its angry claws on America, Post found itself hungry for cash. The prominent cereal maker assumed they "owned" the market. How could anyone stop lusting for Grape-Nuts? Accordingly, advertising budgets were cut to weather the storm.
As the managers of Post reclined in their rawhide chairs, bracing for a slow economy, a hungry tiger lurked in the shadows. That tiger was the Kellogg Company. Their mascot, Tony the Tiger, had not yet appeared, but his insatiable spirit was already born.
While Post retreated, Kellogg doubled their ad spend. In 1933 their campaigns introduced slogans like "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" and "You'll feel better": motivational mantras during a gloomy era. The investment paid off. Americans loved the message and sales began to grow. Kellogg's became the go-to pick for breakfast cereal and your great-grandfather abandoned his beloved Post Grape-Nuts.
The upbeat impact of a crisis is that competitors become mediocre, and the ambitious find ways to grow.
For such a serious topic, the book Exploiting Chaos is a rather breezy read. Jeremy himself acknowledged that our reading habits have changed (I blame texting) - you can browse the colorful book in a sitting. Anyhow, the real gem here isn't the anecdotes that you get from the book, but the ideas, impetus, or kick-in-the-pants or whatever you want to call it - that you may get from reading it.
Check out the first chapter of Exploiting Chaos, available as a free PDF download here: Link | Exploiting Chaos website | Book available starting Sept 1, 2009 - Thanks Jeremy!
Perhaps it also had a little something to do with the fact that Grape-Nuts are disgusting.