When should you begin trend-spotting?

Most of the Innovation Consultants I know, advice businesses on doing trend-spotting as part of the innovation process. I also insist on doing the same because like creative thinking, I believe trendspotting isn’t a one time activity.

It is not a “communicate and forget it” activity. It is an ongoing activity.

Currently, I think this is where a lot of eyes are opening. Businesses are finally taking notice of one of the not-so-obvious benefits of using social media: it is a great tool for aggregating and noticing patterns.

Scanning conversations between two or more people (tweetchats), a person’s Twitter feed, list of recent blog posts, recent bookmarks, etc…sometimes these patterns can/will show a trend.

Curators will then create a single place where they can publicly aggregate content (scoop.it), and sometimes they will do the dot-connecting for others. Beyond the marketing hype, this is an unspoken benefit of social media.

When did you stop observing, listening and learning?

I’ve been asked about trendspotting more times than I can remember, and I think this is part of the problem: when you stop observing, listening and learning; you forget to look beyond the obvious.

Trendspotting is about noticing patterns, and aggregating them to understand the meaning behind those patterns. You are looking for an unspoken insight. This requires that you observe, listen an learn by questioning.

There are a handful of people and organizations (Trendhunter, Trendspotting) that gather trends they observe, and then create detailed reports about them. These a very good insights. But, they are biased because they are from their point of view. Not yours.

It is imperative that you have your own point of view. That you make your own observations. I advice you to do your own trendspotting.

Ask yourself: What do I notice? And why is that?


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  • I completely agree that trendspotting should be an ongoing activity for any company whether it provide a product or service.  

    One observation; however, is what a shame this even needs to be mentioned.  Trendspotting (i.e. observing, listening) is perceived by many as just another step in the innovation process.  “Okay guys, let’s innovate now.  We’ll start with trendspotting.”.  In reality, true innovators are always observing.  They are the leaders and organizations with a constant curiosity about the environment around them.  Always listening to and observing their customers, their competitors, other markets.

    I also agree on the benefits of social media for observing trends in the market.  Networks such as Twitter and Pinterest are incredibly useful tools to search for information on just about anything.  We can now see and follow along with consumers/end users as they provide feedback on products and services.  We can learn how they organize their interests, what they like, what they don’t like.  We can learn what brands are sharing about their products, and get behind the scenes look at these companies.

    As always, thanks for sharing more great thoughts!

    • Hi Jason @jawbrain,

      It is a shame. Some of the stuff I write about shouldn’t be written about (honestly!). But that’s how it is, what’s common sense for some of us is radical to others.

      I’ve found Pinterest to be a great source of insights.

      The nature of ones work is changing. Connecting the unconnected is part of everyone’s job description. I’ve come to believe that most organizations are afraid of the grunt work. They want to put a price on “observing and listening”.

      Do you think people need to be talented at connecting the dots to actually do this? How can we best motivate others to aggressively observe and listen?



      • Connecting dots IS the future.  Everyone has knowledge now.  We all carry computers in our pocket.  The valuable employees are the ones that can collect, sort and connect that information into usable insights for their organization to help drive sales, brand, etc.

        I agree that many companies are still afraid of the grunt work.  They think that by adopting some of these new systems (social media) that the connection work will do itself.  

        I am also starting to see the other side.  Progressive, curious employees that are making great strides to learn new media tools, gather the information and make the connections necessary for growth.  However, they can share these insights all day long but continue to fall on deaf ears that are too focused on short term growth and old ways of thinking.

        • @jawbrain Dot-connectors are the drivers. I’ve seen that too. But these outliers, for the most part, are my age. They grew up or grew into this stuff.

          Next-Gen Leaders will connect with clients, customers and partners through social. They’ll see it as business-as-usual at some point, but we’re not there yet. But when this happens, we’ll be having another conversation.

          I’m already thinking about what that conversation looks like, the new challenges.



  • Nice Jorge.  I wish our clients understood how important consistent trend spotting and synthesis is to understanding the direction of customers and markets.  Trend spotting, combined with scenario planning, is definitely low hanging fruit on the innovation tree.

    • Thanks Jeffrey. I hear you. It is one of those activities that is not so easy to grasp immediately because it is not immediately tangible. Combine that with scenario planning and heads begin to fall off. But social media tools definitely help in opening eyes. Conversations are happening in real-time now, therefore responsiveness becomes even more important.

      How can we motivate organizations to observe and listen aggressively?



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