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Ahead of the Curve

Next up? Finding out what'll be big before anyone else does.

If you knew in advance what the next must-have product or service was going to be, your entrepreneurial fortune would be made. But how can you tell where to place your bet? In Coolhunting (Amacom, $24.95), innovation experts Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper offer a refrigerated warehouse worth of tricks and tools for identifying what's cool before everybody else does.

Their fundamental approach is to track trendy people, called coolfarmers. You can set up your own system for aggregating opinions of forward-thinkers by creating a group for sharing information--the authors cite Benjamin Franklin as a role model here--or by setting up publications or information networks for trendsetters to swap ideas with others of their ilk.

Focus on early adopters of cool stuff rather than the inventors of the stuff, the authors caution. And don't make yourself the star of the group or network; let the coolfarmers have the spotlight. Do it right, they say, and you'll be able to harness these modish folk to help you design and market your product by getting others interested in it.

Take charge
A youthful polymath with a yen for travel explains concepts like miniretirements, remote control CEOs, automated cash flow and MBA--Management by Absence--in The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss (Crown, $19.95). Ferriss founded a successful business but struggled with the long hours until he refocused his efforts on making the company operate with less of his personal effort. Now he roams the globe indulging in whimsical adventures while his company, he says, practically runs itself.

Ferriss' story is both personal, as he reveals his inner thoughts while transitioning from workaholic to relaxation addict, and general, thanks to a panoply of checklists, questionnaires, spreadsheets and other useful tools for the rest of us. All told, this is a well-thought-out take on regaining control of life for entrepreneurs whose enterprises seem to have gained the upper hand.

This story appears in the July 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »