Publishing trend reports has become a lucrative business in an uncertain world.
A lot of big consulting firms have some very impressive reports available to their clients, at a price of course; and listening to a trend presentation about the rise of things like DAOs, NFTs and CRISPR is always incredibly interesting.
The value of trends however is not in the awareness of the trend itself - it's in the synthesis of the information around the emergence of that trend, and ultimately in its application in strategy.
In the process of evaluating change for strategic purposes the real skill is in discerning between signal vs noise. It's here that context matters as well the nuances of how the relevant insights are to be applied to decision-making.
Most trend reports are published by organisations who are located in London, New York, Paris. Their clients are global multinationals who make most of their money selling products and services in developed markets.
These analysts have no idea what trends are relevant for supermarket groups in South Africa, as an example. They are probably completely unaware of the challenges that consumers face in most developing markets. These is a significant vacuum when it comes to capturing the forces of change affecting consumers in developing markets. Simply applying insights generated in North America in a futures thinking exercise for the South African marketplace is not going to generate relevant results.
In general what you will also find is that these reports tend to have a significant bias towards reporting on changes in technology; as if nothing else that happens in the world is also of interest.
It's not that technology isn't important - or has impact on our lives, but who decided that all change is driven by just one dimensional source?
The danger is that the value of this vital component of strategy research can be tainted by the contents of reports who's authors and distributors claim to be important trends to consider by everyone.
Read and consider trend reports - yes.
View the contents of trend reports as the final word on how the future will play out - no.
Trends are just a starting point; a primer for exploration.
What's far more of use is the deeper delving into the possible, interconnected causes of change, the feint signals of change, the underlying cultural shifts that are driving a shift in thinking and behaviour.
These are things that you won't find in a report - they take time and curiosity to uncover and analyse.