Forecasting trends based on data is predicting the future based on history.
We can not predict the unpredictable using databases. If we take corona as an example, nothing in the data told us it was going to happen. In ‘The World Before’ Corona, companies have started to base their business decisions and product strategies on data records. The world became data driven, primarily using the internet and its cookies. Database companies started predicting the future based on the data of last season; data of the past.
Most of us prefer not to take risks in their professional life, as we risk losing our job if something doesn’t go as planned. Data is seen as safe, it’s a proven statistic, a fact based on numbers and records. By using this data to make decision based on the future direction of the company, you can always justify it and fall back on these facts.
This resulted in pattern repetition – if green pants sold well last season, according to the data, it’s an easy decision to use them again in the next collection. We end up repeating ourselves, there is no innovation, no one dares to try anything new. We stay in a repeating bubble.
Last year’s data is useless, comparing ‘The World Before’ with ‘The World After’ does not make any sense. The fact that green trousers or green handbags sold well in April last year, says nothing about sales during or after a virus lockdown.
We can’t use yesterday’s data to predict tomorrow, however, we CAN predict the future with visionary thinking, and watching how our world develops. Even in a situation like corona we can ask ourselves, could a trend forecaster have predicted that? And in a way, they could. Looking at an over-pressured economy, overcooked industries, 10% growth year after year, and a general belief that there was no way to hold back the growth, I said: “We can not continue like this. We are ruining the earth, and something is going to happen.” I even predicted it might be an illness.
Everybody loves data, because it is a fixed thing, and we like to work with facts. However, data is a fact from history, and it says nothing about our future. We need to use more of our feelings, and I predict that forecasting feelings will be even more important. Companies can no longer rely on databases; today’s reality is not the same as last year’s.
This is a big change. Corona f***** up the database predictions and innovation pipelines designed to factor in last year’s sales. Now we have to start thinking about what people might need, what your company can do, and what needs to change.