Originally published December 7, 2016
For the past seven years Rohit Bhargava has been making annual predictions about business and marketing trends in his non-obvious trend series. I missed the 2011-2016 editions but am now on board with Non-Obvious 2017: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict the Future (IdeaPress Publishing, 2017). Although most readers of these books are undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the author's predictions, I am going to focus instead on the art of curating trends.
"A great trend," Bhargava writes, "is a unique curated observation about the accelerating present." That's not an accurate statement: a trend is not the same as the observation of a trend. But I quoted it nonetheless because it has the ingredients of a powerful concept. Start with the notion of an accelerating present, combine it with the author's definition of curation ("the ultimate method of transforming noise into meaning"), and add an element of creativity. I would recast Bhargava's point as follows: To identify a non-obvious trend is to observe and process a signal about an accelerating present in a creative way.
Bhargava elaborates on the notion of curation, listing five habits of trend curators. They are curious, observant, fickle (in the sense of "moving from one idea to the next without becoming fixated, or overanalyzing each idea in the moment"), thoughtful, and elegant (that is, they seek "beautiful ways to describe ideas that bring together disparate concepts in a simple and understandable way"). Put a little differently, trend curators always ask why, see what others miss, learn to move on, take time to think, and craft beautiful ideas.
For his own work, Bhargava uses the haystack method. This is "a process where you first focus on gathering stories and ideas (the hay) and then use them to define a trend (the needle) that gives meaning to them all collectively." I guess you could call this method a low-level form of data mining. The haystack method has five steps: gathering (saving interesting ideas), aggregating (curating into clusters), naming (creating elegant descriptions), elevating (identifying broader themes), and proving (validating without bias).
Investors and traders who are in search of non-obvious trends might well find some insights in Bhargava's book.