Which Trends Can You Trust?

Daniel Burrus
June 17, 2020

Daniel Burrus

One of the World's Leading Technology Forecasters and Business Strategists
Which Trends Can You Trust?

Mention the word "trend" in a group setting and you'll find that most will shrug it off, the reason being that the word "trend" has a negative connotation to it, causing trends to be considered untrustworthy.

Having an avoidance relationship with trends of any kind based on this aura can be a significant mistake in your career. Some trends are so trustworthy that they can be considered future certainties, or what I refer to as Hard Trends. Others are somewhat less certain, but open to important influence that you can leverage to your benefit. I refer to those as Soft Trends.

With the "new normal" we find ourselves heading towards - now that we have faced a global pandemic, a wide variety of new Hard Trends and Soft Trends have emerged. Understanding and embracing a different view of trends can unlock enormous opportunities for both you and your organization that we have never had before.

4 Ways to Spot a "Trendy" Trend

A "trendy" trend is often defined as what's hip or popular at a certain point in time. When framed that way, it's easy to understand why so many people have a knee-jerk distrust of trends. For one thing, it relates to how the word trend is often used.

Here are 4 ways to differentiate between a "trendy" trend and a trend that can be leveraged by being anticipatory.

  • Trends Are Short-Lived. If something is considered "trendy," be it clothing, a workout regimen or most anything else, it's seen as something of interest or value only in that moment. It may be fashionable or "in," but that's likely to be short-lived.
  • Trends Lose Their Value. Moreover, when a trend goes out of fashion, so does its perceived value. Think about the clothes you wear or the car you drove merely a few years ago. Can you say that they are relevant today?
  • Trends Can Date Us. If you're of a particular age, can you see yourself doing the same things, saying the same phrases or wearing the same clothes you did in high school? For most, that thought is a bit embarrassing!
  • Trends Come and Go. Additionally, many trends are seen as unpredictable and beyond our control. They come, they go, and no one ever seems certain how long they're going to last--or, for that matter, the invisible force that transforms a trend from today's hottest thing to tomorrow's old news.

Why Hard Trends Are Better

The certainty of Hard Trends and the malleability of Soft Trends that can be leveraged for opportunity are quite contrary to the characteristics listed above. The global lockdown eventually ending and businesses starting back up again is a Hard Trend, and how fast we can flatten the curve is a Soft Trend at the start of the pandemic, for example.

The more scientific definition of a trend is that it has a general course or prevailing tendency. That greatly reduces the notion of a trend as something unpredictable that comes and goes on a whim and makes the concept of Hard and Soft Trends much more understandable.

Hard Trends Are Sure to Happen

In fact, not only are Hard Trends sure to happen, some are predictable with absolute certainty. Hard Trends are one of the core principles of the Anticipatory Organization Model, as they are things that will happen.

For example, eventually, we will have a vaccine for the Coronavirus and this pandemic will end, which is a Hard Trend.

Here's a simplified example of a Hard Trend on a very personal level. Picture yourself 20 years in the future. Where will you be and what will you be doing?

You might reply with complete uncertainty, right up to whether you'll still be living, but overlook the fact that you being 20 years older than you are now is the Hard Trend of the equation.

Move this concept to a bigger stage and you can see the concept that we're all getting older is an indisputable Hard Trend with enormous implications.

Soft Trends Can Be Influenced

By contrast, what we will be doing and where we will be 20 years into the future are examples of Soft Trends, which are future events less certain to occur. Even though it's debatable as to whether they may or may not happen, the valuable element of Soft Trends is that they can be influenced.

Using our example of the Hard Trend of aging, what we will be doing for a living and the status of our health are all Soft Trends in that they are not future facts, but future possibilities open to change and influence.

To compare this to the Coronavirus, the question of whether we will continue to need PPE and practice social distancing in the next year is a Soft Trend. If we take the necessary precautions now, we can influence whether that will be necessary or not.

What makes Hard and Soft Trends so valuable is that they not only allow us to anticipate the future with complete certainty, but those elements of the future that are not set in stone can be changed to our advantage.

The next time someone quickly dismisses the value of trends, stop and think about them beyond their surface value context. Instead, look at trends as invaluable tools for you and your organization to utilize in your plan for the future.

Learn to separate Hard Trends from Soft Trends by checking out the Anticipatory Organization Learning System. It consists of a corporate training system, as well as an individual learning experience.

You can also order my book The Anticipatory Organization on Amazon.com today.

Daniel Burrus

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