“Another year, another meaningless round of predictions,” comments Quartz. The ones writing these predictions are a diverse group of forecasters, branding and creative agencies, analysts, consultants, bloggers, and technologists who spend the majority of the year frantically differentiating themselves until the end of the calendar year arrives.
And then the end signals the beginning of each party’s trend list (e.g., Top 10 Tech Trends for 2015, Top 5 Eating Trends for 2015, Top 15 Wellness Trends for 2015).
Quartz highlights that while there is a lot of good thinking out there, the majority of it is crowded out by novelty predictions, last-minute call-arounds to fill year-end pages, and a huge dose of linkbait. This Top Trend phenomenon has made it difficult to judge the value of forecasts, and has thus made it harder to make decisions based on them. Luckily, Quartz author Scott Smith offers a short user’s guide of what to consider when consuming a stack of Top Trends:
A prediction is not a forecast, but a dart thrown for entertainment’s sake
Co-mingling predictions and forecasts is a common mistake. For the record, a prediction is a statement of what someone thinks will happen, while a forecast is a more complex picture, a cone of possibility. A prediction is a point, while a forecast is mostly likely a range.
Consider the source
Think about who is doing the forecasting, and ask, “What stake do they have in this?” And while few are being intentionally misleading, cognitive bias does come into play when forecasting, leading to overly optimistic forecasts.
What are the criteria being used?
Often we hear something “will be huge” next year, but we have little insight into the criteria by which “huge” is measured. If we have no idea about measurement, we have no way of valuing what we read for ourselves and are left with a breathless qualitative statement.
A year is not a year
Trends don’t begin in January, nor do they glide to a halt come the holidays. By definition, the dynamics of trends mean they rise, peak, and fall, or sustain long enough to become what futurists call a driving force.
Accountability for past forecasts is critical
Quickly creating a Top Trends list is easy, but doing the legwork behind it is harder. Forecasting should involve a feedback loop. What did we miss? What did we overplay? What dynamics weren’t adequately accounted for? How does that change our approach?
To read more about how to navigate the Top Trend phenomenon, head to Quartz.
Photo: Charisse Kenion via Unsplash