Technology has made it difficult to tell a trend from something that’s merely trendy because of the ways in which tech changes are often complicated, confusing, or invisible. It’s easy to fixate on what’s trendy—the latest app, gadget, or platform—but harder to track how technology is shaping our organizations, government, education, economy, and culture.
At any moment, hundreds of small shifts are taking place in technology—beginning as developments on the fringe—that will impact our lives in the future. Not all of them will prove authentic trends, though. A real trend is a new manifestation of sustained change—whether it’s within an industry, the public sector, society, or in the ways we behave toward one another.
Understanding trends can help us meet the demands of the present while planning for the future. They’re the analogies our minds make in order to grapple with change, but our minds can often mislead us. Here’s how to know when something that’s trending really is a trend worth paying attention to.
WHAT MAKES A TREND
All trends intersect with other aspects of daily life, and they share a set of conspicuous, universal features. But as a general rule of thumb, a trend is driven by a basic human need, often one catalyzed by new technology.