How to Research Trends

I have been meaning to write about the book, How to Research Trends: Move Beyond Trend Watching to Kickstart Innovation, by Els Dragt, for a while now.

I particularly enjoyed this as there are many books on mainly long-term future studies including include trend research mainly targeted at business professionals explaining the relevance of trends for commercial success; however this is the first one that I have found that dives into the process of trend research and explaining ‘how to’.

The book provides the reader with the full scope on trend research, from scanning to analysing and applying trends. It shows how to use trend research to explore the future. I have learnt a more hands-on way to scan my environment for signs of change, analyse trend spots and apply trend insights to kickstart innovation.

I liked the interviews with the experts as they guided me in the methods of becoming a trend researcher. I could connect more with this book as it is written for students, like myself, and young professionals.

Within the ‘Apply’ section of the book, it defines a trend scope and showed how to create trend research in a tailor-made way.

I was interested in the steps of innovation. There are so many trends, how can these be applied during an innovation process?

In practice, innovation processes have an iterative and nonlinear dynamic; however it is possible to follow certain steps to use trend insights as starters in this process. The book breaks it down as applying trends can be broken down in three steps: Scope, Communicate and Translate.

Step 1: SCOPE

As a trend researcher you are continuously monitoring manifestations of change and integrating these into your trend overview. It is important to apply the trend insights to a specific challenge and the scope needs to be set based on a project briefing so it is possible to look at trends from a certain angle.

Step 2: COMMUNICATE

Based on scope you decide how to communicate your trends. It is essential to consider which factors need to be taken into consideration to adapt the trend story to a specific audience and challenge. Trend storytelling is a vital part of this stage and there are many pros and cons of the various types of trend deliverables such as trend reports, videos, presentations, consultations, tours and workshops.

Step 3: TRANSLATE

The last step is the apply phrase as a trend researcher is helping others to make a first step toward change and innovation. There are various tools that can be implemented that translate trends into future-proof ideas. These include the Values Meet Value, Brainstorming, Trend Selection, the Creative Process, Translation workshops, etc.

“It’s not always obvious for organisations how trends are related to their business question. As a trend researcher you need to help them see these relations.” – Laura Wolfs, Senior Research Consultant at Point Black International.

Overall, setting scope helps you in understanding the client’s challenge and perspective and based on this scope, you communicate the trend insights in a tailor-made way. The choice of deliverables is selected to fit the client’s challenge. Lastly, to translate trends into innovative ideas, a value fit and concept statement serves as a foundation. A translation workshop is a suitable way to move from insights to innovative ideas and by diverging and converging in the creative process you can select ideas to develop further. This last point is the one that I can currently relate to the most as I have been working through the Create Process throughout my first term at university.

I would recommend giving this book a read if you wanted to become acquainted with trend research. It brings trend theory in an accessible manner without devaluing the subject of trend research.

Rachel

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