The Wire – WPP’s house magazine – ran a ‘trends round table’ in its most recent issue. The Futures Company’s Andrew Curry was invited to participate, along with Hazel Barkworth of Added Vale, Vicky Cook of Mindshare, Ann Mack of JWT, and Emma Fric of PeclersParis. Unfortunately the whole article isn’t available online, but here are our answers.
“What do you find are the most fertile sources and research techniques for uncovering new trends?
I look for the people, places and policy activists that are good at surfacing and shaping emerging trends. Twitter and RSS – despite Google’s best efforts to kill it off – make these easy to monitor. I’m fond of aggregator sites that bring together groups of writers. I’m looking for the edges, for the subcultures where the dissenters live.
Is finding trends more art or science? Intuition or hard work?
They’re all of those things: art and science, intuition and hard work. The science is in understanding the patterns of change, of knowing the right questions to ask. The art is in the flash of intuition when you see something that might be different. The hard work is in sticking with it until you uncover the whole story.
Once you think you’ve spotted a trend, how do you verify that it is real, and not merely ephemeral or illusory? An emerging fashion, not a fad?
Choo, who wrote one of the definitive papers on scanning, talked about the importance of both ‘undirected’ and ‘directed’ viewing of trends. Once you see something interesting, you need to research whether it’s just a blip. And you have to challenge yourself hard, to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of confirmation bias.
How do you separate what’s significant from what’s merely interesting? For example does it need to be something that requires action?
The filter question for significance is often, ‘could this change my assumptions about my markets, my customers, or my business models?’ That’s typically where the new and disruptive business opportunities are. But timing is often critical.
Is a trend useful in itself, or does it require interpretation, implications and understanding its causes?
A trend is rarely useful in itself: you can mislead yourself by focusing too hard on a single trend. The saying goes that ‘A trend is a trend is a trend – until it bends’, and it’s in the bends that the opportunities and risks emerge. Context and connection is everything.”
The image at the top of the post is from SimplyDapper.com, and is used with thanks. Andrew Curry is a Director in The Futures Company’s EMEA office in London. He wrote our Future Perspective report on Unlocking New Sources of Growth, which can be downloaded here.