The Wall Street Journal has an article on small businesses using financial derivatives to help manage and control costs. Derivatives are financial instruments that are based on or derived from some underlying asset or index. Farm commodity futures are probably the best known, but there are derviatives on a large and growing number of physical and financial assets. See Wikipedia for a more complete description of deriviates.
A major trend we've been tracking is how advanced technology and access to third party tools and infrastructures are allowing small businesses (and even individuals) to use sophisticated capabilities that even a few years ago were limited to large corporations. Small business use of financial derivatives is an excelent example of this trend. We will cover this trend in more detail in Installments 2 and 3 of the Intuit/IFTF Future of Small Business report series. Installment 2 will be released in a few weeks and installment 3 will be released later this year.