In the memorable phrase of Ged Davis, a trend is a trend until it bends…or breaks.
For many of us, the pandemic era has been a reminder of this, as the course of events has not always followed the trajectory we were expecting.
Today, we sometimes hear talk of “megatrends”, too; Stefan Hajkowicz of Australia’s Data61 told me you could compare these to the powerful rip currents which pull swimmers out to sea.
Sometimes such currents are hard to spot, and researchers put dye in the seawater to make them visible. Savvy surfers can use rips to swiftly travel out from the shore to the point where they can catch a wave.
Perhaps thinking in terms of trends can work this way, too: using foresight to make a previously unseen tendency visible, using strategy to take advantage of it.
But what happens when the perceived tendency, mega or otherwise, bends or breaks? Our expectations are thwarted and we are reminded that a trend is a projection from the past into times yet to come. The ghost of yesterday’s future haunts our thinking in the here and now.
It’s not that tendencies don’t ever endure – sometimes they do. But it doesn’t always tell us much about what is coming next. After all, we can’t gather one shred of evidence or data from events which haven’t happened yet.