Why leaders are missing the point of trendwatching

Despite a rise in trendwatching, businesses are still unprepared for the future. MT columnist Tracey Follows believes this is because they are following trends rather than using them to shift perspectives.

by Tracey Follows

January brings with it not only the relentless cold and rainy weather but the relentless stream of trends reports that have been been cued up somewhere in the internet, just desperate to burst forth on the first day of a new year.

There’s nothing wrong with a good trends report (heck, I spend most days in any year, reading, writing, observing and speaking about trends) but I do find this increasing pattern of only issuing trends at the beginning of the year somewhat odd.

I think it has something to do with the notion that January is when we now take stock, to prepare for the rest of the year, and try to predict what is going to happen over the next 12 months (personally I prefer September for this).

We often feel the need to arm ourselves with these trend tomes to give us a glimpse into what many believe is absolutely going to happen and hence prepare for it. It strikes me as somewhat ironic then, that this year there are more trends reports than in any previous year and yet we seem to be less prepared than ever.

Something’s off.

What’s off is our understanding of trends and our increasingly slavish behaviour towards them. If you really want to prepare for the future, and at the same time partly create it, then you need to use those trends not as tools for preparation but as tools for challenging your own perspective.

It’s important to remember what a trend is. It is not a fad, or a fleeting fashion. It is merely an observed increase or decrease in something. Trends build or fade over time. When we describe them we should be talking about ‘more’ of something or ‘less’ of something, rather than as something that has just popped up out of nowhere.

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