Of Trends and Early Signals

An innovation may equate with the emerging of a new trend; trends may also be important for an idea to latch on to, in order to achieve the success qualifying it as an innovation.

There is a host of qualifiers for trends: megatrends, metatrends, supertrends, microtrends, and mesotrends, making for articles or letters in The Futurist magazine or entire books. There are also various tools for spotting emerging or important trends. I will attempt to provide a – less than exhaustive – sample of “trend sites” with various flavors. Many of them offer an opportunity for subscription (mostly for free) to regular newsletters; several ask subscribers for alerts as to emerging trends, and they offer consultancy services, in-depth reports, conferences, and the like. The descriptions are based upon how the different sites describe themselves, descriptions necessarily somewhat edited.

Here are a number of web sites following trend developments:

Trendwatching:  A leading trend following firm, Trendwatching.com scans the globe for emerging consumer trends. They report on findings in free, monthly Trend Briefings, sent to 160,000 subscribers, and through a premium service.

Trend Hunter: Trend Hunter is a vast up-to-date collection of cutting edge ideas, crowdsourced by 40,641 Trend Hunters (very precise, the number they provide!).

Influx Insights: Influx is the product of an a-typical ad agent BSSP. Collaboration is a founding tenet. As a member of Worldwide Partners, Inc., a global network of independent agencies, they access powerful resources for insight and campaign implementation around the globe. One focus is on branding.

PSFK: PSFK is a New York based trends research and innovation company producing a daily news site, providing trends research and innovation consultancy, managing a network of freelance experts, and hosting idea-generating events. More than 750,000 people around the world read PSFK’s web site and newsletter reporting on recent changes and creative ideas in popular, consumer, and business culture.

Fashion-ation: As the name indicates, geared at fashion.

Springwise: Helped by a network of 8,000 spotters, Springwise editors scan the globe for smart new business ideas, hopefully triggering instant inspiration.

The Cool Hunter: Headed by founder Bill Tikos, The Cool Hunter purports to celebrate creativity in all its manifestations. The Cool Hunter claims to be the world’s most-read culture and design site. They focus on global relevance rather than trends, selecting what is beautiful and enduring from what is sought-after in architecture, design, gadgets, lifestyle, urban living, fashion, travel, and pop culture. They aim at staying ahead and outside of trends and fads, fickle shifts in taste and style.

Cool hunting: This site highlights novelties in design and fashion.

Cool Business Ideas: As its name indicates, this is broader in its scope.

Swarmcreativity:  Swarmcreativity is about analyzing tends, what is ‘cool’, and this blog is partly referring to a book, Coolhunting, and its associated computer software. Here is about the book: ”In Coolhunting, you will discover the practical tools you need to find the hottest trends – and the people who set them… By recognizing who the trendsetters are, you can actually anticipate the next big trend before it takes off – because cool ideas will grow and expand around these people.”

Futurismic: Futurismic “offers near-future science fiction and fact”.

Shaping Tomorrow: Shaping Tomorrow is a consultancy but also the hub for a free network, Foresight, operating on Ning and with a number of other Ning (sub-)networks set up by members. Trend alerts are highlighted regularly. There is a host of resources and ‘insights’ described in a structured way. “This web-based strategic thinking system is designed to help you anticipate and better prepare for emerging global opportunities and risks. You will gain fresh strategic foresight, agility and resilience through earlier warning of change…”

Technorati: Technorati Media is an integrated online media company with an ad network, three web properties, and an ad technology platform. Technorati Media’s ad network has grown into the largest social media ad network (over 1,200 blogs, social networks, and distributed content), boasting an audience of over 400 million unique visitors a month worldwide and 180 million from the US.  In October 2010, comScore ranked Technorati Media as the 12th largest media entity in the US, the 4th largest social media property and the 3rd largest blog property.  Technorati.com, the flagship site, is the world’s first and largest blog search engine and a robust community blogging platform.

Future Concept Lab: Future Concept Lab is a Milan based research institute working on marketing issues and trends in consumption. Research activities comprehend Europe, North America, South America, and Asia, with correspondents in twenty-five countries. The goal is to develop and share new concepts regarding products, communication, and distribution.

Future Concept Lab has a sister laboratory: The genius loci lab is dedicated to the exchange of ideas, findings, and visions between individuals, researchers, companies, institutions, and designers from an expanding network, facilitating contacts between the worlds of creativity, research, and business.

Culturomics: ngrams is a new Google service (“culturomics”) allowing for the cross-correlation of concepts, based upon Google’s scanning of an immense repertory of books.

If trends are important to discover, then the earlier such discovery is made, the better. The concept often applied is the one of early signals or weak signals (though such words may sometimes also be used for what is equally apt to be called anomalies: significant deviations from what is regular). Elina Hiltunen, PhD, hosts a Ning conference on this concept at the mentioned Foresight Ning network, and in 2010, she defended her dissertation on the concept. She relies on crowdsourcing and is a blogger.

A (nice) bit, this piece…

As I have argued that people should be allowed, even encouraged, to fail frequently, rapidly, and inexpensively to gain experience, I was much enthused when seeing an HBR Blog with the headline “Finally, A Majority of Executives Embrace Experimentation”. So I’d like to highlight it under this ’Misc.’ Heading.

The Law of Allusions

Did Sergei Eisenstein, in his movie masterpiece(s) ‘Ivan the Terrible’ allude to Stalin? Film historians are in dispute, but it is indisputable that Stalin was taken by these movies.

During the days of the Warszawa pact, censors took a straightforward course: all mention of dictators were allusions to current conditions, thus forbidden, erased, deleted – censored. To be on the save side, this Law was applied even to ancient history such as that composed by, e g, Herodotus.

Today, innovative services linked to innovative product, such as what Google and Apple offer in search, book libraries, and applications stores, have taken upon themselves or been forced to exert censorship. How will they handle the Law of Allusions – through some innovative trick of journalism, editing, or publishing?