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Get to Know: Brad Grossman, Founder of Zeitguide

This is your fifth annual Zeitguide Cultural Almanac. What is the biggest change in terms of the research tools you use, and the process by which you make informed insights?
All year we are collecting tons of content from a variety of sources – news publications, white papers, trade publications, conferences, market research reports from all industries. We file away things that we think have interesting takeaways by category. Then we also talk to our network of subject matter experts and get their input on what we’ve found and what else they see happening in their field.

I call this our Find-Filter-Focus process, where we’re always trying to zero in on the heartbeat of what matters.

Over the last five years, obviously sheer volume of available information has grown tremendously. Keeping a million articles in email just doesn’t cut it. So we’ve used new tools like Evernote and Slack and cloud services to keep track of everything.

Do you think the current political climate will affect the way we process information and assess trends?
It is certainly very distracting to everyone. The administration’s lack of transparency and hostility to the press will drive journalists to tap into new sources and get more aggressive about disseminating the truth.

Trump is a disruptor, and could influence many of the things we’re thinking about – from technology, to regulation, to relationships with global markets. My advice is you need to be prepared for the unexpected.

The 2016 Zeigtuide was white, which you noted, “reflects all the colors of the visible spectrum simultaneously. And that’s sort of what we see going on these days—a mix of everything.” By contrast, the cover of the 2017 Zeitguide Cultural Manual is black and gray – any significance there?
ZEITGUIDE 2017 is primarily gray because 2017 just feels nebulous. It’s cloudy. Financiers are excited about the future of the economy, while many immigrant communities are terrified or at least melancholy about today’s hostile immigrant environment.

Most important theme to look out for in 2017?

The gloves are off this year. Politically, that’s evident with the Women’s March and the protests. But I think it’s going to be felt everywhere. People and organizations that have never had to be outspoken are going to feel they have to stand up. Even companies that shy away from controversy are wading into terrifically controversial areas like transgender rights, and attracting support and backlash for doing so.

What inspired your weekly #Ripouts?
For years I literally ripped out newspaper and magazine articles that were fascinating to me. I was sitting by the pool one day doing my routine and a friend said to me, “Your next newsletter should be called Ripouts,” and from that moment #Ripouts was born –  it’s our weekly newsletter that highlights things we found in the press that provoke us all to think about where we are and where we are going in culture.

Any advice on how to stay up to speed on the forces changing business and culture (besides reading your Almanac, of course)?

Listen. Listen. Listen. Always be curious. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to not know the answer. Escape your bubble and explore what other people have to say about the world. Speak with people you wouldn’t normally speak to, whether you strike up a conversation with someone sitting next to you on the train or reaching out to an expert in a field unknown to you. Read different narratives and alternative sources. Be open to learning new things and different perspectives.

What is something we can’t find out about you from Google?
I’m a fan of jazz, which is a live, improvisational communication of emotions within a group of musicians. I believe that in the same way I have interesting conversations and connect with people – my clients, employees and experts – is similar to the way jazz musicians use music to connect with one another.

What is your favorite spot in NYC?
WILDAIR, a new restaurant in the Lower East Side and they are the best at providing you with an education on the evolution about the wine business and right now, as you read in our 2017 ZEITGUIDE, it’s all about natural wines!