For cool hunting, go out!
In a short interview of Josh Rubin (the guy who does cool hunting), there is this interesting excerpt:
Q. What tip(s) would you give a brand/marketing manager to help them become more aware of consumer/cultural trends in their day to day worklife? JR. Get up from the desk, go outside and walk the streets. If you're not in an urban environment, move to one. Travel often to get perspective. Learn how to search, sort and filter the blogosphere.
Why do I blog this? I think this is a crux issue; there are so many companies asking for more "consumers insights" and blablabla but the first lesson would be the go out and try to pick up facts, which is different from reading massive GFK or Datamonitor reports about trend watchingf. Of course I have to admit that execs may have lots of stuff to do but I am pretty sure they could be benefit from learning a bit how to observe what's going on right now in different places. It's not a matter of asking them to take care of consumer studies or ethnograpy but rather to keep in touch with reality. Personnaly, it's one my favorite activity: wandering around in cities and suburbs with a digital camera. There are so many trends that you can pick up! Pattern identification and analogical reasoning are then central in terms of skills required :)