Where Science Meets Muse

A Simple Method for Trend Forecasting

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2009

I came across this  article on trend forecasting and put together a little time-line to show approximately what is going on when new products come to market.

development process michaelplishka2009

Although the above chart is somewhat simplistic, it breaks down the phases of technology development.  I used a 20 year cycle as mentioned in the article although as soon as a product is introduced into the market the Refinement phase tends to get accelerated in an effort to gain full Acceptance quicker. 

That being said, 10 years of incubation in R&D for a ‘new to the world’ product is probably a good rule of thumb.  It may be longer or shorter depending on factors such as if the research is being done by private industry or the government.

So, how do you do your own trend forecasting?

1.  Got to Google News and do an advanced searchRegular Google works as do other search engines but the News search has some cool timeline search features.

2. Adjust your search parameters to approximately 10 years ago, plus or minus couple of years.  Try using variations on key words as well.   I use 10 years because it will give you a glimpse of what technologies should start seeing the light of day around now.

3. Once you have found pertinent information, redo your search in the present to confirm.

To illustrate this I performed a search using the very broad phrase “new product” and searched in 1999.

I found an article in New Scientist from Dec. 13, 1999 about how scientists were focusing their efforts on a new type of hypoallergenic latex derived from the Guayule shrub.  After additional searching I found that in 2000 there was research that showed Guayule was an effective barrier.   Also in that same article, it pointed out that in 1994 researchers found Guayule rubber was free of allergens.  All this research was driven by the surfacing of AIDS in the 1980’s and the ensuing heightened awareness to latex allergies which consequently drove USDA researchers to begin looking into Guayule as a Latex replacement in 1991.

Additional Googling in the ‘present’  showed that in 2008 the FDA, for the first time, gave clearance for  a glove manufactured from this material.

The time-line for Guayule is shown below:


(I extended the Development aspect of the time-line to highlight the venturing into products other than gloves for healthcare.   To be more accurate, there are multiple products springing from the Research/Development phases and each of these has their own time-line. A fascinating time-line about the entire history of Guayule is here.)

As you can see, the development of Guayule gloves holds pretty close to the process pointed out above.  In fact, it points to Guayule being something to get excited about which will further drive Acceptance which will drive Development, and so on, and so on…

So, there you have it, a simple method for Trend Forecasting.

What do you think of Trend Forecasting? Is it science? Art? What do you do to help predict future trends?


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