Anthony Topham May 13 2024

The Future Is Now: Why Trend Spotting is Essential for Modern Leadership

In today's dynamic business world, success isn't just about what you know, but how you interpret and utilise that knowledge. Anticipating trends and market shifts isn't just helpful – it's vital. Welcome to a world where the future shapes the present, and leaders don't just react but anticipate and set trends. Join us as we explore why trend spotting and strategic foresight are crucial for modern leadership. Get ready to dive into the heart of leading in an era where the future is now.


You don’t need another post telling you about the speed of change, VUCA and a world in flux. We all get it right?

Organisations and leaders need to have more than simply a passive and casual eye on macro and micro trends both industry specific and industry agnostic. Actively monitoring societal, technological, cultural trends etc which will drive consumer and employee behaviour, is vital to evolve and thrive (not just survive).

The numbers don’t lie:

  • Future-prepared firms outperformed the average by a 33% higher profitability

  • Future-prepared firms outperform the average by a 200% higher growth

  • Firms with deficiencies face with a performance discount of 37% to 108%.

(Rene Rohrbeck, Technological Forecasting and Social Change)

Common sense, right?

But common sense isn’t always common practice.

A PWC survey of CEO’s in 2023 found that nearly “40% of CEOs don't think their companies will be economically viable a decade from now if they continue their current path.”

And in McKinsey’s “The State of Organizations 2023: Ten shifts transforming organizations” only 5% of respondents say that their organisations have the capabilities that they need.

Indeed, I was speaking with leaders of a global creative and fashion recently, whose holding company had placed an organisation wide ban on using AI on company computers. This was in order for their security committee to work out how they were going to mitigate risk. All the while, their competitors are stealing a march by embracing and driving the advancement of those technologies.

Strategic foresight and an eye on the outside world

The trends and foresights industry, as we know it today, is relatively young (around 10 years old). In reality it is an evolution of market research which has gained greater traction across many sectors as organisations look to mitigate risks and identify opportunities to get the jump on their competitors.

Many organisations and leaders barely have the bandwidth to see what is happening in their own backyard, let alone sector...and anything beyond that can feel like cloud cuckoo land.

However, it is a capability that can be built and developed in your people and culture and not just bought in. It starts with curiosity.

"Leaders must evolve beyond being managers seeking incremental improvement

to become visionaries with the courage to craft a resonant purpose and

boldly imagine and pursue the future."

McKinsey, 2023

There is so much out there. In today's 'expectation economy' being able to tell the difference between a trend and a fad... and knowing which to focus on can be vital for both success and survival.

So, how do you focus your curiosity to figure out what trends and foresights you should focus on. What is going to fundamentally change the way we work (AI, the post pandemic work revolution) and what will pass and fade (the ‘black gold’ dress conundrum, zoom quizzes).

There are three main types of trends to look for:

CONTEXTUAL - Sometimes called 'Mega trends' or 'Drivers'. These trends are long-term shifts with major impact.

Think big juicy existential stuff and PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environment).

CONSUMER - When we think consumer, think beyond buying patterns. This is about people's values, attitudes, desires, fears and needs. These trends explore how culture is evolving and how societal and individual needs are emerging. Their impact is slightly smaller than contextual trends.

All of this plays into people in the workplace, who they choose to work for and what they expect of the 'employee experience'.

CATEGORICAL - Contextual and consumer trends lead to innovations in specific categories. Often this is where our value to the client lies.

How do those Contextual and consumer trends apply to their business model or their culture for example.

If contextual and consumer trends are about collecting the dots; categorical is about connecting them.

How can we help?

Most trends and foresight advisories and reports are marketing and consumer focused. At t-three, we are in the unique position to analyse and synthesise the data and help leaders understand how those trends will need to drive their decisions on:

  • Culture and engagement

  • Strategy

  • Business model/ product

  • Leadership

  • Recruitment/ Retention/ Attrition

  • Learning and development

We look at trends and foresight from across industries and sectors and help organisations understand how those trends will shape their culture, strategy and leadership.

As well as consultancy and reports, we have also designed a workshop to help build your internal foresight capability. The ‘Foresight Sprint’ gives execs and leaders the opportunity to explore current and emerging trends and how they can use them to strategise, plan and act in a VUCA world.

This session has been run with senior teams across a variety of sectors and the trends can be tailored to your industry or challenges.

Do you want to know more about our sprint and what we think are going to be the most important trends in organisational culture and employee engagement this year? Get in touch with us at

Want to hear more from Anthony? Watch our video on top four trends tensions for future-prepared organisations in 2024. 


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