For commercial organisations, the importance of trend watching is obvious. In order to remain competitive, organisations need to be aware of changing customer needs and rising technological possibilities. Especially when they are active in a fast changing environment. Therefore, most organisations do some sort of trend watching.
However, trend watching can be quite a challenge. It becomes difficult when trends develop at a high speed. Such trends may not be visible today, but could have a great impact on an organisations' business in a short time. Another problem appears when trends are clearly visible today, but it's hard to assess the future implications.
In this article, a method is proposed to deal with these challenges and get the most out of trend watching. The Next Organization introduces The Future of Customer Interaction, a business program and community platform for organisations to look beyond trend watching to foresee their future.
Most organisations, especially those that operate in a changing market environment, do some sort of trend watching. The yearly business cycle that steers the rhythm of planning and budgeting is the common trigger to see what the future holds. If done well, conclusions are drawn and actions specified. And all is captured in the yearly renewed marketing plan.
On the short-term, trend watching focuses on sector-specific developments which influence daily business and should be acted upon immediately, as they indicate what type of products and services arise. Organisations should also keep a sharp eye on trends that occur a little further in time. They will have an impact as they influence consumer needs, preferences and behaviour that in turn define the future winning products.
However, trend watching can be quite a challenge. It becomes difficult when trends come at high speed. Such trends may not be visible today, but could have a great impact on the organisations business in a short time. Another problem appears when trends are clearly visible, but it's hard to assess the future implications.
In this article, a method is proposed to deal with these challenges and get the most out of trend watching. It's a practical list of guidelines that can be best described as a way to integrate knowledge to foresee the future.
Spotting the right trends early in time is tremendously difficult and has it drawbacks
Trend watching is valuable but it clearly has its pitfalls:
- Disruptive trends more than often find their origin in sectors the organisation is not active in. So how to remain aware to the' changing environment' if this behold virtually the whole world?
- Sometimes organisations lack the competence to interpret the trend adequately.
- And most important, the true impact on organisations is often created when two or more trends are combined. Disruptions usually don't come from a stand-alone development, but they generally are the composition of several trends that together reinforce the impact on the organisations' business model.
Nowadays it's often said that organisations should jump on new emerging business models. The question remains how to find them if current trend watching doesn't do the job. To foresee future trends and even disruptions, a new way of trend watching is needed.
The Future of Customer Interaction is a business program and community platform for organisations, which provides an actionable approach based on a set of guidelines that aim to overcome the pitfalls of traditional trend watching.
The best way to predict the future is to create it
Inspiration from developments outside the organisation's market
The true value of trend watching lies in finding and combining new insights from industries that may not have a direct link with one another, but do have an impact. For example, taxi companies were heavily affected by the combination of platform technology and the consumers' community thinking which resulted in Uber. Thus, have a look around and find inspiration in unexpected industries.
A well-prepared process is necessary. Thus, gather people from different sectors that are aware of trends (in their industry); perform research on trends & developments and inspire each other with success stories of innovative companies; define a clear step by step approach that guides the organisation through the thinking process and finally; convert the ideas into a clear and coherent view on the future.
Invite business partners in the process
Disruptive developments are characterised by the way they shake up the business chain. And who are therefore most interested to contribute when an organisation starts such a process? Exactly, their next-door neighbours: suppliers and clients. It may feel a bit itchy at first, but it will pay out tremendously as the add up of knowledge with the participating partners in the chain will rise exponentially.
Involve top management
Trend watching is only useful if organisations are capable of acting upon the insights they gain with it. Therefore, it is important to involve top management from the very start. This way, those that ultimately decide over proposed actions get fully committed to the process. This is important asas the lines of reasoning go well beyond the obvious incremental steps. What organisations don't want is that a group of people that created a clear view of the future is not supported by the ones that have to decide over the serious implications as it goes beyond their imagination. Simply, because they weren't there when it was created.
There is no misunderstanding that trend watching as we know it is valuable. The point is that it doesn't cover all available possibilities to prepare for a healthy and fit position in the future. Where trend watching focuses on the adaptation to future developments, The Future of Customer Interaction looks further in time and has its focus on the aim to create the future.
The Next Organization is developing The Future of Customer Interaction. The aim is to paraphrase existing knowledge on global societal trends and disruptive technologies towards specific domains and situations. It consists of an online platform where relevant information is brought together as well as a community that shares insights and interprets consequences. During business events, top management of participating organisations develop strategies to fully profit from the created insights. The aim is not only to inspire but to support and guide companies in strategy and innovation programs. It is all about creating a holistic view of trends and their impact on society, business and customer interaction in 2030 and beyond.