A well-worn cliché says there are only two things you can be certain about: death and taxes. With apologies to those who agree with that statement, there are many, many more examples of out-and-out certainties.
Was Sunday followed by Monday last week? Absolutely. Will that be the case next week? You can count on it. As I write this, researchers, the medical community and countless others are trying to determine the best course of action to combat many different types of cancer. Diseases have appeared in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
On a lighter note, will the technology in the automotive industry—such as semiautonomous vehicles—continue to develop and mature, or are we going back to crank starts and cars equipped with just an AM radio? Of course cars are only going to become more sophisticated. We certainly aren’t going to drive innovation backward.
Those are just a handful of examples of Hard Trend certainties. And understanding what a Hard Trend certainty is, as well as strategies to identify them, can lead to significant game-changing opportunities for you and your organization.
Simply put, a Hard Trend is a future certainty, something that we know is going to occur. A related but different sort of trend is known as a Soft Trend. These are future maybes that may or may not take place.
I have grouped Hard Trends into three primary categories to help you understand and identify them.
The first is demographics. For instance, there are nearly 80 billion baby boomers in the United States. Not a single one is getting any younger—a definite Hard Trend.
The second is government regulations and oversight. Here, a broad question immediately comes to mind—as a general rule, will there be more or less government regulation in the future? Of course there will be more, and that’s true regardless of the industry or organization. That’s also a Hard Trend.
The third is technology. From the ever-increasing functional capabilities of our smartphones to the growing use of 3-D printing—for instance, farmers in Myanmar are using 3-D technology to produce necessary tools at a rate far faster than conventional manufacturing—technology is inevitably going to become more functional, more sophisticated and more widespread. That’s another definite Hard Trend.
Knowing that something is a future certainty means much more than merely impressing your friends and colleagues with your vision. It’s central to your organization’s planning and subsequent execution.
For instance, if yours is an industry subject to comprehensive government regulation, banking your future on the hope that future levels of oversight will be lower than they are now is little more than a fool’s errand. On the other hand, being aware of the Hard Trend of growing government regulation, you can plan with those additional guidelines foremost in your mind.
In fact, you can even leverage them to your advantage. For instance, when the United States government mandated additional electronic patient record keeping, some organizations merely threw up their hands in frustration. Others decided to pursue opportunities to help health care organizations put those new procedures into place—and profited accordingly.
That’s another characteristic of Hard Trends. Some are welcome, some are not. Some, in fact, can be hybrids—yes, we’re all living longer, but that raises the question of affordable health care to make those additional years worthwhile.
Put another way, don’t expect a Hard Trend to always tickle. But what you can expect is that Hard Trends—identified and acted upon—can offer enormous opportunities for those organizations with the mind-set of always keeping their eyes open to the future.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.