Zpryme Trendz Volume XIII

It is often said that change is the only constant. We live in a world and at a time when fads, trends and paradigm shifts all cause the change we see around us. Fueled by technological innovations, these trends, fads and paradigm shifts can feel overwhelming to even the informed mind. So how do we discern which of these three situations we’re facing, and how do we respond to each one? First we have to understand each of them.


Without much basis in the actual quality of the product or craze, fads tend to take on a feverish pace of adoption and then disappear just as quickly. Fads can also be thought of as ‘how we do things.’ There are companies and industries that thrive and survive on catching fads. The fashion industry is one. They fashion industry has perfected the art of creating fads, disguised as trends and must haves, to ensure that consumers constantly look out for and purchase the products that are en vogue. To not define or tap into the fad is to end up in obscurity, even as your market starts to truly grow. (Swatch, for example, should be at the forefront of the smartwatch industry, but has lagged behind others.) Unbeknownst to most, fads are engineered. The Beanie Babies fad was kept alive by the company’s traveling salespeople who met frequently with toy store owners and consumers. These salespeople evangelized and influenced the decisions consumers made that kept Beanie Babies as a hot product for as long as they were. The company was using influencers and evangelists in the 1990’s, terms some would relate only to web based or celebrity influencers today. Fads can also create opportunities for business model innovation.


If fads are how we do things, trends are what we do. Trends can be thought of as new manifestations of attitudes (views on climate change), behaviors (shopping habits) or expectations (customer service) among people. Trends tend to tap into basic needs that are being served or delivered in a new way using innovations of the time. People will always desire basic things – relevance, security, connection, social status, interactions, simplicity – and trends tap into these basic needs. The ‘Human Mode’ trend is one that will become even more dominant as we move into a world of ubiquitous connected and sensing technologies. People will continue to put a premium on connection and social interaction and, as we deploy technology everywhere, there will be a backlash against products that take away those needs. Products or services that infuse the human touch, even with tech in the background, will do well in this future. The human touch is a need that will become an amplified trend in our tech driven world, technologies that serve that fundamental need will become the breakthrough products.

Paradigm shifts: Paradigms are an interesting one. They are more systemic and cultural, so are harder to impact but easy to respond to. Paradigms are the sources of systems. Once a paradigm is set, we start to get systems, goals (individual and system goals), and information flows that support that paradigm. We build skyscrapers in downtown locations (goals and decisions) because we believe that space downtown is extremely valuable so we maximize the usage (paradigm).To change a paradigm you have to impact the leverage points, and the way to do this is to keep pointing at the flaws, anomalies and failures of the old paradigms. And then you put influencers and people of power in positions of public visibility or decision-making. Our social technological tools now fuel paradigm shifts. Once you sense a wavelike movement in a cultural perspective on a system, a paradigm shift is taking place. As you read this, you can actually feel paradigm shifts happening in our views on fairness, politics, social justice and technology, resource access etc. During paradigm shifts there are huge opportunities to innovate, and power structures within industries and societies change. Some companies have taken paradigm shifts and created lasting brands out of this.

Volvo and the safety paradigm shift

When you think Volvo, you think ‘safety’ because of a decision Volvo made in 1959 which as informed its culture and products since then. 60 years ago Volvo invented the three-point seat belt and made the patent available to everyone for the benefit of public safety. That decision, at a time when traffic deaths were particularly high, has kept the rate of increase in traffic deaths lower than the rate of increase in the number of cars on roads globally. Volvo changed the paradigm for safety in the vehicle industry. They shifted the paradigm of what people expected from their vehicle manufacturers. That paradigm shift has become the standard of operation, table stakes, for any company looking to get into auto manufacturing because the rules and regulations now demand it. All from a decision to open source what was amazingly innovative at that point. The company is still reaping the fruit of that decision and have not rested on their laurels.

So what are we facing? Unfortunately (of fortunately depending on which perspective you take),we are facing an increasing number of fads, trends and paradigm shifts. The real work is in determining how you strategically respond to each one as many an industry has been disrupted by not responding in the right manner. It is critical to know what opportunities these present and what innovations can be created at the intersection of the new trend/fad/paradigm shift and fundamental human need to further your cause as a business. As Dr. Barbara Nuremberg of Farenheit212 suggests, what you need is an ability to see with the eyes of the mind to make connections, a synthesis that, once put together, forms a new perspective towards creating products or services that are innovative. Thankfully you’ve got us here to help with that.

You still have time to register for the one-day Supermind: AI + HI for corporate strategy planning workshop in San Antonio next week. Amongst other topics, we’ll dive into use cases on how to use AI + HI for customer segmentation and personalization.

We’ll be back week after next. Happy Thanksgiving!