This will be the start of a short series of postings dealing with trend scouting or trend forecasting. The goal is to get an overview of things happening in trend scouting so I can link to my main area of interest which is technology scouting.
We will get straight some basic vocabulary, have a look on how trends propagate through society and what the lifetime cycle of a trend looks like. Most of this basic knowledge will help us to understand how technology scouting and trends in technology work. So lets start with some basic terms.
A trend can be any sort of physical or emotional shift or movement in society. A trend is a movement in a defined direction. A style (which is often confused with trends) in contrast is where you arrive when you follow a trend. In consequence a trend is a line or way, a style is a point or location. A trend is a sociological anomaly or oddity being visible as sort of a peak in an otherwise rather flat cultural landscape.
Trend scout / Trend forecaster
Trend scouts and forecasters are people looking for the afore mentioned patterns or shifts in attitude, lifestyle or mindset which contradict common thinking or behaviour.
The spreading of trends
Some trends spread in analogy to an infection. The phenomenon of this type of “cultural gene” is often referred to as a meme, a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene.
The mechanism of proliferation can be discribed by a theory of Everett Rogers called “Diffusion of Innovations”. Based on data by Bryce Ryan and Neal Gross who observed how farmers in Iowa adapted innovations in farming technology he identified several groups of people, who adopt innovative changes with different speed. There are several diffusion of innovation curve variants, but the following image shows a common one:
Innovators make up for 2.5% of all observed individuals, early adopters for around 13.5%. This shows that the fraction of people responsible for creating innovation and change is small. Its here where trend scouts and forecasters have to look for things coming.
In the next part we will have a look at how trends can be found and identified and how professional trend forecasters work.
To finish this first delivery I would like to list some literature references, which might be of interest:
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Martin Raymond, The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook