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Are we infatuated with trends?

In a recent blog with Yvette Salvatico, futurist Frank Spencer asks this question: “Are we infatuated with trends?” (http://www.fastcoexist.com/3021148/futurist-forum/why-predicting-trends-doesnt-help-prepare-for-the-future Read their blog–their main point is that being up to date with current trends isn’t all there is to being usefully aware of the future. Knowing the trends doesn’t get you there.

It’s a good time to think about this because we’ll see lots of blogs and articles about the 5, 10, 12 most important trends shaping the year(s) ahead. Not that it’s wrong to identify and monitor trends. Especially if that monitoring is based on a futurist’s definition of a trend: 

“A trend is a statement of the direction of change, usually gradual, long-term change, in the forces shaping the future of an organization, a region, a nation, a sector, or society in general.”

Based on this definition, many changes we are urged to pay attention to may be short-term, soon gone and forgotten. Worth a minute to think about and maybe to make adjustments for, but not to base a policy or a long-term strategy on. 

This is not to forget, of course, the many businesses and sectors that make their living from the new, the short-term change, the sudden switch in the public’s attention. In their case, it’s in their interest to hype the “trends,” to get more attention for what may be a short-lived opportunity. But it’s not effective foresight. It’s new colored stripes for deckchairs, not iceberg detecting radar.

Happy New Year and good (real) trend monitoring!