Do futurologists predict the future, or create it?
In any industry being able to predict the future is a useful skill to say the least, but one very few can claim to genuinely possess.
Actually, it’s one nobody has. If you could predict the future you’d never have to work again (assuming you could avoid being burned at the stake).
You might call this an obvious truism, and it is. Yet in the marketing and media industries future consultancy is big business, and corporations and agencies alike ground their business and creative strategies in the analysis and forecasting of market trends.
Now, I’m not knocking the extremely intelligent and perceptive work that is done in this field. As a strategist these kind of insights are like gold dust to me. But it also occurs to me that trend predictions are to an extent an exercise in self-fulfilling prophecy.
If a futurologist were to collect every figure in the fashion industry into one room and tell them orange coats will be the next must have item, then most of them will go and produce orange coats. Which will then become extremely fashionable as a result.
And this is also what happens when every leading industry figure is told the future is (or isn’t) virtual reality, or Bitcoin, or crowd funding. The future of digital ownership, personal data and Kanye West to a degree lies in the hands of modern day soothsayers.
Again, I’m not biting the hand that feeds. Trend insight work is invaluable to me. But I think it’s also worth considering that if everyone is wearing an orange coat, the person in a black coat will probably have the most impact. Or at least that’s my prediction.