Using Trends to Unlock the Future

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Using Trends to Unlock the Future

As one of the thousands of business professionals who subscribe to Trends, you receive vital intelligence every month. It not only provides useful forecasts and insights, but it tees up questions that will undoubtedly motivate you to probe more deeply with an eye on the relevant implications for your business.

A persistent question that we've attempted to answer in the new book Ride the Wave is, "How do we translate general trends and forecasts into actionable business decisions?"1

Ride the Wave

Our focus here is on the fundamental mechanics of the process. How does this process work?

It all starts by assembling a cross-functional team aimed at creating an open dialogue around key trends and forecasts regardless of the source. The team's mission is to review each trend that comes to its attention, identifying the implications for your industry, and developing or validating forecasts leading to clear, specific actions. If nothing else, the team's objective is to ensure that you're never blindsided by a disruptive business threat.

Typically, team members listen to the Trends audio early in the month as part of their commutes. They also keep their eyes and ears open as they talk with customers, suppliers, and industry experts. These basic sources should be supplemented with other media.

Then each month, the first step involves identifying trends and related forecasts. As a starting point, the Trends editors provide a series of forecasts related to each trend. Our forecasts have proven to be uncannily accurate over the 20+ years we've been doing this; but like all forecasters, we sometimes miss the mark. Rather than asking you to accept our forecasts "as is," we present you with a reasonable starting point that you should refute or validate.

Unless you have a very small team and a very limited budget, the team should have a moderator charged with making this run smoothly. It's the moderator's job to bring forward relevant forecasts from various sources.

Once a forecast is brought forward, each member of the team should try to answer two primary questions:

  • First, "If this forecast is correct, what are the possible implications for our customers and our industry?"
  • Second, "Given the available evidence, what alternative forecasts are plausible and what are the implications of each of those?"

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