The first part of Continuous Foresight is to begin watching for and looking out for signals and catalysts of the “Next Next” for our organizations. We are all futurists and trend spotters. We all try to look at signals, in our personal and professional lives and respond in one form or another. Hopefully, we are proactive in our response, but admittedly most of us are reactive. Trendspotting is about detecting signs, or we call them signals, of change, happening right now and these indicate plausible futures. When it comes to trend spotting, there are some characteristics and skills we should all look to strive for:
- Broad Thinker
- Business Oriented
- Be a bit of a geek
One big mistake we make is we center our view of the future around technology. We will really limit our thinking and ignore other trends but let’s face it, technology is where we are comfortable and it’s way more interesting for some. But some of the biggest impacts on our businesses may come from disruptions in our industries, changes in business models, and social and political obstacles and opportunities.
In a note by Gartner Distinguished VP Frank Buyendijk, Unleash Your Inner Futurist to Survive Digital Transformation, he describes four types of trends we should be looking at in the figure below.
As you can see, we divide trends into four buckets, ranging from trends that have a high level of certainty that are a reality today, all the way to when we start to imagine scenarios based on transformative trends. Imagining scenarios, via science fiction narratives, in fact, will be a future topic as part of Continuous Foresight. Stay tuned.
Gartner Analyst Samantha Searle, in her note, Use a Trendspotting Method to Identify the Technology Trends You Need to Track , discusses the use of trendspotting specific to technology, although I would argue this method applies to all trends:
A great visualization to consider when it comes to taking a structured approach to evaluated and planning for trends, in this case specifically emerging technology, is the emerging tech radar. I have published a toolkit for creating this radar, Toolkit: How to Build an Emerging Technology Radar, which also walks through how emerging technology radars fit into trendspotting.
Trendspotting is just the beginning when it comes to looking for signals of the “Next Next” for our organizations. The true measure of success with Continuous Foresight will come when we could see the plausible futures, no one else could see and others are missing, that provide our organizations a huge strategic competitive advantage today and in the future.