Now our tools are palm-tops or web-enabled mobile phones. Welcome to the knowledge age. Of course social change is nothing new. Down through the years there have been innumerable revolutions, inventions that changed the entire course of history, and, on a micro level, billions of localised developments as individuals have tried to improve their lot.

Change keeps us strong, and encourages us to grow. “It is the essence of human experience,” is how educator and psychologist James Rowland Angell described it. 

Understanding and dealing with change is therefore vitally important. And the most effective way to do this is not once it has taken place, but before it occurs. We have to be ‘change engineers’, architects of our own futures. While the events of tomorrow may be unpredictable, we can certainly participate in shaping them.

That is why trend analysis is such a vital tool. It allows the investigation of key issues which have to be addressed in the future, both on a personal and cultural level.

It enables us to understand how people and their values are altering, so we can develop products and services to improve the quality of their lives as they evolve. Trend analysis gives strategic intelligence and allows strategic innovation. It is also food for the design process.

Forget ‘things’ – It’s feelings that count

Companies like Philips are becoming increasingly aware that the gap between technological advancement and human needs must be as narrow as possible. That is why so-called ‘soft’ values like trend analysis feature increasingly prominently in the contemporary corporate framework. It is also no coincidence that more women are involved in plotting this new course. 

Technology-driven companies were an almost exclusively male domain , and were focussed on producing ever-better objects for public consumption. But greater emphasis on the feelings and the motivation of the end-user – areas where women are traditionally more adept – is the way forward. After all, it is people and cultures who ultimately drive technology, and not vice versa.

It is no exaggeration to say that Philips Design is a real ground-breaker in trend analysis. We have firmly integrated trends and design into a cohesive process which leads to the creation of innovative, future oriented and above all people-focused solutions.

Our socio-cultural team helps clients think in terms of trends. Our user research department gets to the bottom of what people really want, and even gives them an active role in the design process (co-creators).

We also take many different aspects of popular culture as input and inspiration (Culture Scan), and translate this into recommendations on aesthetic and tactile properties of future products and services (Visual Trend Analysis).

This blend of Culture Scan, VTA and Trends and Strategy expertise is unique. What’s more, it is also truly global, supported by a network of thirteen Philips Design offices worldwide, all providing vital ingredients for our cultural soup.

Empowered or overpowered?

So how does this help as we cross the threshold into the knowledge age? By enabling us to develop solutions that fit with the spirit of the times.

People are now questioning whether new technology actually makes them happier. “Am I being empowered or overpowered?” They know they have to learn on an on-going basis, but want to do so on their own terms, without too much distraction and ‘noise’. 

Information may well be the new currency of the knowledge age, but in many ways it is like oxygen: too little and we can’t survive, too much and we combust!

The challenge is to strike a balance. It is the identification and analysis of shifts like this which enable lasting and relevant solutions to be created.

Universities, design groups, design agencies and many other parties have consulted us on our approach to trend analysis, because we are considered to be an authority on the subject, and because it is seen to be a very important issue.

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