There’s a lot that goes into starting, managing, and growing a successful business. But of all the challenges that business leaders face, trying to stay current with the evolution of technology and consumer trends is one of the most difficult. The good ones find a way to continually lead the charge. Here’s how:

1. Listening to Customers

It’s easy to grow accustomed to your own little bubble. However, if you really want to push forward, you have to listen to voices outside of your company’s four walls. In particular, you should make it a point to listen to your customers.

“Without even having to leave your desk, simple email surveys are a good place to start,” entrepreneur Daryn Smith writes. “An email survey can be short and simple – simply asking customers to rate their last service transaction, for example – or take the form of a detailed questionnaire aimed at unearthing customer insights into the state of the industry.”

Other options include online polls, focus groups, social listening tools, and blog comment sections.

2. Reading Regularly

There are a ton of ways to consume content – including YouTube videos, blogs, podcasts, and email newsletters – but few mediums yield the same value that books offer. 

There’s a reason the world’s most successful entrepreneur, CEOs, and business owners read multiple books a month – it works. The more you read, the more knowledge you consume. There’s also a sense of discipline and productivity that comes from picking up a book and reading it from start to finish that you don’t get with a five-minute video or hour-long podcast. 

Here’s a list of some of the top business books of all time – as well as a list of the top business books of last year.

3. Taking Online Courses

While books provide a nice overview of topics, there’s something valuable about teaching and learning about the latest business trends and developments in real-time. This is where taking online courses is helpful.

Many of the world’s most highly-esteemed universities and institutions offer online business courses. Consider taking a couple of courses each calendar year to stay on top of the latest trends and developments.

4. Consulting With Mentors

Every business leader should have a mentor to help them grow – personally and professionally. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any successful business leader who doesn’t have at least one mentor in their life.

“To achieve success through positive mentorship or coaching, you must first be open to receiving coaching,” entrepreneur Casey Jacox writes. “You must be vulnerable to see where your weaknesses are and where you’re falling short. You cannot allow yourself to think you have all the answers because you never will.”

When you’re in a position where you’re willing to be mentored, you can actively look for someone. Don’t be weird about it, though. Calling someone up and asking them to be your mentor sounds forced. Just ask someone to lunch and keep doing it over and over again until you have a solid relationship where ideas and thoughts are freely shared.

5. Asking Questions

Quite frankly, the best way to stay on the cutting edge is to ask questions. Be inquisitive and let your curiosity run wild. If you hear something you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If you want to know more about a new trend, find people who have more knowledge than you. Never be afraid of embarrassing yourself. As they say, there’s no dumb question.

6. Trying New Things

Comfort is your worst nightmare. Regardless of how proficient or skilled you are at one thing, you should always be willing to try new ones. Some will work and others won’t – but that’s the point. The more you try new things – even late in your career – the more you learn and grow. 

Stagnancy Breeds Obsolescence

No matter your current level of success, or your contentment with where you are in your life or career, you can’t afford to kick your feet up and coast. A stagnant approach to business doesn’t just produce stagnant results – it actually leads to diminishing returns. 

Not every business leader does well to follow the same script, but hopefully this article has provided you with some helpful inspiration for how you can continually stay on the cutting edge. Which technique will you use?