Future and Trends

“Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous” (Jim Dator)

Of course, none of us can see into “the future”. But we can make an effort to detect and interpret signals of change early, to identify and explore trends leading to possible futures. 

The future of market decisions

Markets are the result of billions of people and millions of companies making their own individual decisions about what products and services to exchange, with whom, at what prices. Markets are complex adaptive systems in which information plays a defining role.

In recent years, the Internet, Smartphones, new platforms and digital payment solutions have resulted in a wealth of available information, increased transparency. As a result, lowered transaction costs, as well as global competition, are eroding industry boundaries and barriers to entry.

Customers and providers of products and services now have access to more information than ever before about offers, competition and people’s opinions. But how will they use this information in the future? How can they deal with the information overload? And who will they trust to filter the information or options into a consideration-set? How could new ways of interacting with data change how people make decisions in markets?

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” (John M. Culkin)

The Future & Trends research group strives for a better understanding of technological and societal trends that may lead to disruptive changes in human decision-making in markets. We investigate what these trends could mean for market insights and how to make better decisions.

Therefor we explore future scenarios of how technological innovation can change decision making in markets – and what this means for different market participants. In a world where startups and technology companies are vying for attention, funding and customers, and where everyone claims to do “disruptive innovation”, it can be hard to distinguish overhyped ideas that will fizzle out in two years from overlooked breakthroughs that will actually change the world.

We address our research questions with a variety of methods, from future studies, social sciences, ethnography, design and innovation research. We look both for weak signals to identify trends early and for tipping-points where continuous quantitative changes in cost or performance reach a threshold that results in a dramatic qualitative or systemic change. One of our initiatives is the creation of a “radar” of trends with an impact on human decision making in markets that warrant further analysis.

“The future is already here – it is just not very evenly distributed.” (William Gibson)

In addition to understanding external trends, it is also important to explore how limits in our own mental models - formed by language, culture, education and life experiences - can create blind spots that prevent us from seeing new opportunities – being “innovation blind”. To overcome innovation blindness, it helps to challenge assumptions using the “surely alarm”, identifying “toxic assumptions” and understanding how new technology is adopted and used across very different regions, industries, or lifestyles.

We are engaging with young top talent from around the world to understand their visions of the future, and have engaged with startups and researchers not only in Palo Alto, Amsterdam or Berlin, but also in Beijing, Nairobi, Pretoria or Sao Paolo, where technology adoption shows very different patterns.

We co-operate with a network of experts from academia and practice and conduct workshops to share our insights and foster dialogue about possible futures – and what they may mean for market insights and making better decisions.

Our researchers​

Projects and Workshops:

Some partners in our network: