Improve Planning By Separating Hard Trends From Soft Trends

The Burrus Hard Trend™ Methodology is a scientifically developed system based on thirty years of research. Many companies, including Deloitte, Lockheed Martin, and IBM to name a few, have changed how they forecast and strategize based on this methodology of separating Hard Trends from Soft Trends.


A Hard Trend is a projection based on measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects. It’s something that will happen: a future fact that cannot be changed. Strategy based on the certainty of Hard Trends has low risk. Hard Trend categories include Technology, Demographics, and Government Regulations.

A Soft Trend is a projection based on statistics that have the appearance of being tangible, fully predictable facts. It’s something that might happen: a future maybe. Soft Trends can be changed, which means they provide a powerful vehicle to influence the future and can be capitalized on.

This distinction completely changes how individuals and organizations view and plan for the future. Understanding the difference between Hard and Soft Trends allows us to know which parts of the future we can be right about. Hard Trends give us the ability to see disruptions before they happen and the insight we need to create strategies based on a new level of certainty. Hard Trends also provide a way to accurately predict consumer behavior changes based on game-changing technology shifts. Soft Trends can be changed and therefore influenced, producing another way to influence the future.

A simple example of a technology Hard Trend is the increasing use of mobile apps for business areas such as purchasing, supply chain, logistics, customer service, maintenance, training, and sales support. A related Soft Trend would be which companies will develop mobile apps such as these to transform their business processes.

A simple example of a demographic Hard Trend is the retirement of Baby Boomers. A Soft Trend relating to this would be which companies will implement a system to collect knowledge and wisdom from their Baby Boomers and implement a knowledge-sharing network before they retire.

A simple example of a regulatory Hard Trend would be a U.S. law that was passed in 2013 that allows U.S. chicken producers to ship chicken to China for processing and then back to the U.S. for retail sales with no labeling requirements. A related Soft Trend would be trying to identify how many U.S. chicken manufacturers will process chicken in China for sale in the U.S.  Another related Soft Trend would be the amount of U.S. consumer backlash that might occur.

One of the ways to put accurate timeframes on Hard Trends, is to use what I call the Three Digital Accelerators: the exponential advances in processing power, bandwidth, and storage. I’ve been tracking the Three Digital Accelerators, as well as their exponential trajectory, for the past thirty years. These Three Digital Accelerators have now entered a predictable new phase due to their exponential growth—a phase that will transform every business process. Think of it this way: Based on the technology-enabled Hard Trends that are already in place, over the next five short years we will transform how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, innovate, train, and educate. And if you don’t do it, someone else will.

It is possible to avoid the fate of Polaroid, Kodak, Motorola, GM, and Blockbuster, and instead create must-have products and high-demand services—as Apple, Canon, Toyota, Netflix and so many others have—by seeing what others can’t: the Hard Trends that are shaping our future.  

By focusing on Hard and Soft Trends and the three accelerators instead of trying to keep up with the dozens of new technologies covered by the press each month, we can get a more accurate sense of where technology-driven change is coming from and, more important, where it is likely to lead.

****

DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash Foresight.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: the rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less