Trending or Trendy

Last week I attended a mini-conference where a “Futurist” spoke. He was charismatic and excited about the prospect of things to come. To be honest, I wasn’t impressed. It sounded like someone who read the most provocative articles he could find on AI, quantum computing, biohacking, self-driving everything, eco-tech, the blockchain, VR and anything else trendy.

And I think it’s the “trendy” part that bothers me.

I’ve started reading Amy Webb’s “The Signals are Talking”. She works in the field of “futurology” or “strategic foresight” as they call it. She talks about using data to identify trends. A trend is different from being trendy. Trends last and fundamentally change our lives and businesses.

I heard Matt Mullenweg (founding developer of WordPress) answer a question one time about what he’d do if he had to start over from scratch, with no money, network, etc.

Matt’s response was insightful.

He said he’d find back issues of Fast Company, Wired, Wall Street Journal, etc. from five years ago and write down everything trendy. Maybe it’s 3D printing or electric cars or whatever. With this list, he’d circle the things or companies that are still around. These are the areas he’d focus on building something or investing in because they avoided being trendy and found the trend.

True trends are like waves. They’re meant to be ridden.


This first appeared in David’ (almost) bi-weekly newsletter, Notes from the Field.