Old trends and new tricks

11th Apr, 2014

Throughout the time I have worked in trends and futures analysis*, the implications of an ageing society have been a constant theme of our work, and other people’s. I sometimes think of the ageing society as the eternal trend… other trends may come and go, but ageing is always with us.

A friend of mine asked me earlier this week if it ever gets boring talking about the same trends. An excellent piece on longevity by Emma Jacobs in Wednesday’s FT reminded me why my answer was an emphatic ‘no’.

As Jacob’s piece illustrates, even if an ageing society is a constant, the dynamics of ageing and its implications for markets and society are not. They evolve and remain a vibrant disruptive force that must be revisited and re-assessed. For example, a variety of trends might be said to be behind the radical changes to the pensions market announced in this year’s budget, but ageing was surely centre stage. An ‘old’ trend with the power to surprise and revolutionise a market.

There is a point central to Trajectory’s futures philosophy here. So many ‘trends agencies’ obsess about new trends. They publish the ten new trends for April, the fifteen new trends for 2015 and so on. Of course, new trends emerge (though I really doubt that there are fifteen really important new trends for 2015, let alone 10 new trends for April), but really important trends endure. They remain key drivers of the future. We ignore old trends at our peril. The trick is to revisit them with fresh eyes and reinterpret them for today’s future.

 

*If you’re interested, let’s just say John Major was busy winning a General Election as I began life as a wide-eyed analyst at The Henley Centre for Forecasting.