Meet Q, The Machine At The Heart Of sparks & honey

Q™ is the system that powers sparks & honey. Five years ago (in 2012), we set out to build an organization that is not just aware of the future — but understands how culture is changing and then works with others to shape it.

What was very clear then and remains true today is that we couldn’t do this with human intelligence alone. If we are to be effective at really understanding our VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) world, we need machines and systems to work alongside our team.

Q™ is the latest generation of the system that allows us to make sense of a changing world. It helps us identify signals, structure data, score trends, and add bias into the system at great speed and much more accurately than humans alone. Here’s just a bit of what this machine does.


At a high level, Q™ allows us to map culture in ways that enable organizations to take control of change and shape what’s coming next, from product development to service design, marketing communication, and scaling the edge into new core businesses.

The system scans culture for signals and patterns, fuses inputs from multiple sources including digital, social, analogue, and a range of expert networks. It works in tandem with our agency’s pattern recognition techniques, such as our daily culture briefing, and a mix of cultural strategy methodologies. This dynamic pairing powers all the work we do, from analysis to ideas and action through visualization.


The ability to learn from humans and patterns is at the heart of Q™. Where the humans of sparks & honey left off, the machine is taking over — and digesting five years’ worth of data of human input. This includes a taxonomy of 90+ trends that has been perfected over 20 consecutive quarters (we update our trend taxonomy, The Elements of Culture every 90 days), and a set of human networks that range from the s&h staff to our Advisory Board (33 accomplished individuals, including CEOs, startup founders, artists, scientists, and others), and our global scout network.


Human analysis trades speed for depth, whereas machine computation trades depth for speed. We believe in the idea of AI as augmented intelligence, where we reduce the tradeoffs of relying only on one or the other.

The Role of Humans

The s&h Staff

A team of analysts, strategists, writers, and designers with a wide range of backgrounds. This growing team — speaking a combined 20+ languages — are all trained to identify signals and patterns, scan for changes in culture, and tag signals into the system on an ongoing basis. Every day, we review specific signals and patterns tied to client needs and input deeper insights and observations. And we add on to our cultural narratives by tapping into a range of data and platforms (syndicated and owned) to provide context and further analysis.

The Advisory Board

This think tank of 30+ accomplished individuals represents a wide range of areas: Art, beauty, neuroscience, human potential, startups, economics, urbanism, policy, foodtech, content, music, entertainment, finance, cyber security, exponentials, and others. All of our Advisory Board members are ongoing contributors to the system in two ways: they identify signals and patterns, and provide validation of analysis.

Global Scouts

Curious individuals, mostly undergraduate and graduate students or s&h alumni around the world. Scouts scan their localities for signals and pattern identification and provide local data for select assignments.


Partners (and sometimes clients) contribute to signal and pattern identification around specific assignments.

The Daily Culture Briefing

The Daily Culture Briefing is a lively discussion on the trend signals percolating across culture. Our staff, scouts, Advisory Board members participate every day, and to keep our thinking fresh, we openly welcome guests — last year alone, over 2,000 guests, from students to artists, scientists, CMOs, and CEOs, joined our briefing. Curated by s&h staff, the one-hour session is a pattern recognition exercise of 30–40 signals trending in culture, typically over the last 24 to 48 hours. This open session is a key part of training the system.

The Role of the Machine

Automated Signal Finding

Automated signal finding increases the volume, coverage, and time distribution of signal identification to provide an accurate snapshot of culture 24/7.

Scoring Trends

We score our signals in real time, according to a range of attributes: energy (relative importance), prediction (confidence of lasting potential), and reach (number of people likely exposed to the signals).


The visualization layer gives s&h staff and clients direct access to a macro lens of culture happening in real time. This is a comprehensive visual view of pattern recognition from relevant cultural signals submitted into the system. It also offers a customizable application to identify and inform potential shifts and key insights to help validate our thinking.


The next logical step in the journey takes us into driving more rigor and automation to illuminate the direct connection of cultural relevance to business performance, linking corporate profit margins to Q™ and integrating econometric modeling and media mix modeling to DMPs.

We remain committed to our goal of helping people and institutions understand and shape culture by making change visible, measurable, and actionable. Q™ represents five years of experience with some of the most exciting brands and organizations in the globe, signalling an upgrade to our system and practices — and our commitment to our team and clients.

Curious? The best way to get started is to join a daily briefing, visit us at to sign up.