Trend Spotting: Keeping Track of the Ever Changing Game

Businessman climbing above the clouds to get a better view of the landscapeI have been thinking lately about the value of trend spotting and the people or groups that provide that service in your organization. To some organizations and industries it is very important and to some it is not even on the radar. Is it important to your organization? Does it need to exist?

By trend spotting, I am referring to the practice of monitoring trends, particularly those that are pertinent to your business or industry. Those may be a demographic shift; an alteration in preferences for one product over another; a change in how people perceive a product or service; a political movement or a response to the shifting political current. All of these things could have an effect on how you do business and the way you sell your product or service, including developing the right product mix. In our connected world, it is easy for demands to suddenly boom or to die out just as easily, and without monitoring those trends, we could either miss a new opportunity or be left holding the bag when demand for our specialty or product dries up.

I have been searching for web sites that could extend my trend spotting abilities and help me to stay abreast of new developments that are important to me. Here are some sites that may be of interest to you as well.

Springwise, according to their site, is “helped by a network of 17,000 spotters and scans the globe for smart new business ideas, delivering immediate inspiration to entrepreneurial minds.” These spotters are organized into a group through This is a fascinating concept that I have never considered in the past—anyone can submit a trend or a new business idea that they think is rising, and if their submission is chosen and aired, they are awarded with “cool gifts.” You can either browse their site or become a paying member and follow the trends related to your needs. This is, in essence, crowd sourcing for trends.

Trendwatching is very similar to Springwise. It is a fee-based service that supplies you with trend information targeted specifically to your business and industry. The trends are fed by an organization called An interesting fact—contributions to happyspotting are rewarded with points that can be redeemed for gifts. Apparently, it is not about the money anymore, it is about the cool gifts.

What Springwise and Trendspotting are doing is harnessing the power of people around the world who are watching out for new products, new businesses, and new ways of doing things. I do not know what the qualifications are to be a happyspotter or a springspotter, but there must be an algorithm or filter that tries to determine whether this is a random occurrence, the beginning of a trend, or a “tipping point”. To help you stay ahead of the trends, these could be valuable services to you.


Are you a trend spotter? Do you have someone in your organization that is dedicated to that task? Perhaps multiple people each have a piece in their job description? Is it even important to your organization to stay on top of trends? Let me know your thoughts on how important you think this is.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.


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5 thoughts on “Trend Spotting: Keeping Track of the Ever Changing Game

  1. Marc Ross

    Hello Prof. Brown,

    My inquiry is in response to ‘Trend Spotting: Keeping Track of the Ever Changing Game.’

    How are predictive technologies supplementing human trend-spotting?

    A 2014 Inc. Magazine story ‘Wanna See into the Future? These Startups Can Help’ discusses companies applying predictive technologies (LINK has further details).

    How important is a process called ‘inferential scanning’ in trend-spotting; to infer emerging trends “on the edge of the radar screen so to speak?” Do predictive technologies incorporate ‘inferential scanning?’

    One basic example of ‘inferential scanning’ involves analyzing current Internet content through occurrences of specific keywords possibly indicative of emerging trends e.g., specific keywords such as ‘A TREND’ ‘LATELY’ ‘BECOMING MORE’ ‘BECOMING INCREASINGLY.’

    ‘Inferential scanning’ alone periodically yields astounding results on emerging social and business trends. How might predictive technologies further assist in “separating the signal from the noise?”



    1. Kelly Brown Post author

      Hello Marc,

      Thanks for sharing this information. This area is expanding so rapidly I had not yet read about these apps so I appreciate you expanding my knowledge. In terms of your question, I think these apps very much will be used in trendspotting. I think back to the days of clipping services that would scan newspapers and magazines for a mention about your company and/or product. I don’t know for sure but I would guess that those services are obsolete with the advent of media analytics. For now I think human trendspotting and services such as Blab and Mindmeld will coexist since there are advantages to each. With Blab running $3,000 to $10,000 per month, that is a lot of $10 ideas from services such as Springspotters. In the long run however, as predictive analytics becomes more accurate, human trendspotting could go the way of the clipping service.

      1. Marc Ross

        Hello Prof. Brown,

        Thank-you for your response on how predictive technologies are increasingly supplementing human trend spotting.

        What role does ‘inferential scanning’ or ‘inference reading’ play in trend-spotting?

        Do any of the trend-spotting services apply algorithms to screen-out online content for specific keywords (known to be indicative of emerging trends – hence inferential scanning applied), and hence gain a good understanding of specific trends to monitor?


        1. Kelly Brown Post author

          Hello Marc,

          It is good to hear from you again. I don’t know for certain how companies such as PSFK Labs configure queries but I would think that inferential scanning would be in their toolbox for sure. With the explosion of information that we have it is more important than ever to parse queries correctly and creatively to spot trends that can then help clients. Being able to correctly write or program those queries takes a lot of skill but it can yield some surprising results. That being said, I think it still takes a human eye (and brain) to be able to add context to the results in order to avoid going in the wrong direction.

  2. Derek Mcdoogle

    You mentioned that trendspotting is the practice of monitoring trends, particularly those that are pertinent to your business or industry. Do most businesses have someone specific who is over this type of task? I can imagine that businesses would want to stay current with specific trends and patterns. Hiring a trendspotting representative might be beneficial.

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