A recent issue of Futurist Update, the World Future Society's monthly e-mailed newsletter, invited readers to explain why it is important to pay attention to trends. Most respondents identified a tangible professional or personal payoff for trend watching, which can be summarized as follows:
1. Get investment ideas--and save money: "We are a group of angel investors. The futurist membership has given us insight into ideas or firms we are considering for funding. You have saved us money." Carl Meyering, The Meyering Corporation (Detroit metro area).
2. Get early warnings: "I am interested in watching for new trends for the same reason that I watch for traffic in both directions before I cross the street. I want to take advantage of new opportunities and avoid approaching disasters." Charlotte Cowling, Bellevue, Washington.
3. Get confidence: "I'm using trend information in energy, food, and living preferences to create a house that's sustainable: heating and cooling itself, generating its own electricity, taking care of its own water, and even providing fish and organic vegetables and fruit.... Without the trend information, I wouldn't have the confidence to bet my assets on this necessary prototype development venture." Stuart W. Rose, Washington, D.C.
4. Get an edge on the competition: "If you don't pay attention to trends in your environment and those that affect your consumer, believe me your competitor will! If they don't, then you can gain a competitive advantage by identifying trends early.... Spotting trends (not fads) early and adapting products before your competitor has a chance to see what's coming can give you a significant lead time and foothold in a new market. Consumers recognize when a corporation is innovative and foresight-ful enough to give them what they want before they even realize themselves what they want!" Lynette Vega, Westminster, California.
5. Get at the heart of a trend: "Attention to all the details can prevent you from being overrun. For example, statistically, buying a single share in the stock market is insignificant, yet millions of shares bought or sold in a company can signify a major shift in the confidence in that company or signal an event with little meaning. Those millions of shares can represent millions of people, each with a single share, or a core group.... Understanding the demographics of the transactions can [help you] distinguish a trend from an occurrence. It is the most important part of either avoiding being overrun by a trend or taking advantage of a situation.
"So it is with all trends; the challenge is understanding the inner meaning of the situation. Is this a true trend or a random fluctuation that has little precedence and little chance of continuing? This is why a history analysis is so important to understanding the future using trend data." John McCue, Olney, Maryland.
6. Get goals in balance: "Paying attention to what might develop in the future is a healthy antidote to the profit-now worry-later mentality. If you take a few minutes now and then to think about the future, you are more likely to balance short-term and long-term goals. …