Creative industries tend to consult trends forecasting agencies to ensure they’re heading in the right direction. It can be costly for a business to be out of sync with their customers, a simple choice related to the colour of a product can lead to either profit or loss.
I first came across their work through the Textile View magazine while studying fashion design, but my understanding deepened a couple of years later when Martin Raymond was invited to speak at The London College of Fashion.
He is the co-founder of The Future Laboratory, one of world’s most renowned futures consultancies, offering a unique blend of trend forecasting, consumer insight, foresight, brand strategy and innovation.
His lecture was both insightful and fascinating, and I even had a job interview with him while working at the BBC, but didn’t succeed. I remember wearing my grandmother’s black velvet cape and being really dressed up, which was clearly a faux pas (you do need to mirror the team).
One of my key strengths, according to a recent personality test by FirstMind, is being a ‘Futurist’: “having the ability to see possibilities in the future and create clear visions.” I’ve always been drawn to what the future holds, and to this day keep following the work of trends forecasting agencies, including WGSN and Stylus.
It was really exciting to find out Martin Raymond was hosting a live streaming on LinkedIn to promote The Trends & Foresight Masterclasses by The Future Laboratory. It did generate a lot of interest, with over 200 people online actively engaging with the session, and asking relevant questions.
In order to become a strategic forecaster, Raymond said you need to be curious and concerned with others. Nowadays, AI and predictive analytics are an important tool but machines are not capable of making “moral, social, ethical and environmental decisions”.
He also mentioned the importance of history comparing it to the roots of a tree, it’s crucial to know the context and understand why; interpretation and analysis are the basis to identify future opportunities.
Despite all the technology at the disposal of a forecaster, “sometimes it’s better to speak with people directly”, but it’s important to do it without prejudice or bias. A strategic forecaster needs to be able to spot anomalies and early adopters before they become mainstream.
It was a really inspiring session with many different insights into the activity of trend forecasting, and examples from his own professional experience, while also engaging with the audience and answering questions from the live chat.
Could this be signalling a shift in education? The pandemic really pushed online learning to a whole new level and to learn from someone who’s at the top of his game can be really exciting!
Considering the success of MasterClass, a digital collective of lessons taught by some of the world’s most influential and accomplished people, and Euan Blair’s education start-up Multiverse (valued at $200m), offering apprenticeships in tech giants, it seems the gap between what you learn and what you end up doing is narrowing down…
Investing in a good education at a top university no longer guarantees career progression opportunities, you may end up with a ticket to nowhere. People seem to be looking for an alternative, more in tune with the actual reality of the workplace.