9 Ways to Build an Unstoppable Trend Culture

Get your team to SEE what's next, ACT on it, and WIN!


Can your organization see around corners?

We know YOU get trends. But that's not enough!

We know: you’re smart.

After all, you read our Trend Briefings ;)

There’s nothing we need to tell you about how trends work, how to spot them, or other aspects of being an INSTANT TREND EXPERT.

But successful organizations don’t win by spotting a single trend, no matter how game-changing it is. From long-established behemoths such as General Electric to recently emerged giants such as Tencent, organizations win because they can spot where consumer expectations are heading next, and innovate to meet those emerging expectations, time after time. That takes more than an individual – it takes a trend-driven culture.

So where can your organization start? With YOU!


Be your organization's trend champion.

Soak up the awe and respect of your colleagues.

The most powerful cultural dimension of a trend-driven organization is its inclusiveness. That means everyone is empowered to spot trends and act on them.

Of course, that doesn’t happen by magic. But it’s easier than you think to start building an intensely powerful culture of trend-driven innovation. In this Briefing we give a step-by-step guide to building that culture. First, we’ll look at INTERNAL AFFAIRS: building a great internal trend culture. Next, EXTERNAL ECOSYSTEMS: how to fuel your trend culture by building connections to the outside world.

It’s up to you to adapt this roadmap to suit your needs, then run with it! That will transform your organization’s ability to create game-changing new brands, products, and campaigns. And it won’t do your career any harm, either ;)



Build a culture that allows you to spot and apply trends, time after time.


The first step to building an awesome trend culture? Make sure everyone understands the three building blocks of any trend.


Basic Needs. Drivers of Change. Innovations.

If your colleagues aren't sick of hearing about these, you haven't repeated them often enough ;)

There are three building blocks that come together to create any consumer trend: (i) basic needs, (ii) drivers of change and (iii) innovations.

New trends emerge when drivers of change – technological, social, economic and more – unlock new ways of serving basic human needs, such as connection, safety, value, fun (the list is endless). And you can see that happening when you track game-changing innovations that address basic needs in a new way.

To build a trend-driven culture, you need to embed these three building blocks deep in your organizational psyche. Then encourage colleagues to keep a constant look out for new products, services and campaigns and ask: does this innovation address a basic need in a new way? What new expectations could it create? What do those expectations mean for US?

How to do that? Keep reading!


Once your colleagues understand trends, you need to ignite their enthusiasm and keep it burning.


Ready to channel your inner trend rockstar?

Give an awesome trend presentation – and then keep the pressure on!

One sure-fire way to get trends on the agenda in your organization? Announce the date of YOUR first trend presentation.

The aim is to update your colleagues on a handful of trends that should be on their radar. But also to convince them that trends are a must-have part of how your organization creates new brands, products and services, or campaigns.

For each trend, briefly outline the relevant drivers of change and basic human needs. Share between three and six innovations that show the trend in action, and ask: what new expectations are these innovations creating? And most importantly of all, finish on a Lightbulb Moment: what can WE do with this!?

After that, you need to develop regular practises that inspire a culture of trends. Try creating an internal newsletter; create innovation screensavers to display on screens in your office; use social networks; put up physical posters.

Whatever works to prove to your colleagues that trend watching is easy, fun, and everyone’s responsibility!


Kiln Ideakeg

Workshop box contains 'cultural artifacts'

KILN is an innovation and creative services consultancy. Subscribers to their Ideakeg receive regular deliveries of a box containing seven ‘cultural artifacts’, each one illustrating an emerging trend. Objects have included seed ‘bombs’ that can be ‘planted’ by throwing them onto overlooked urban areas, tea in silk tea bags, Sugru putty that can be used to repair household objects, and a keyless padlock. The boxes are intended to fuel trend thinking and strategy workshops. Objects are accompanied by a short summary of the underlying trend.


It's not enough to just share ideas. You need collaborative action, too.


Create a shared platform for innovation.

Trend-driven innovation is faster, more effective and more fun if you do it TOGETHER.

The whole point of trends is to inspire, validate and help you launch successful new innovations. So a trend-driven culture must include action to innovate around trends and bring new, trend-led products, services and campaigns to market.

Day-to-day, most people focus on the successful execution of their daily activities, leaving little time for innovation.

But if you’re going to be your organization’s trend champion, it’s up to you and colleagues who are already on board to build a platform on which collaboration can happen. Remember to sell the personal benefit to your colleagues: a culture of trend-driven collaboration will ultimately make everyone’s work lives more meaningful, enjoyable and effective.

A platform for collaboration can take many forms – the right one depends on the nature, practises and shape of your organization. See below how global media company PHD approached this challenge.


PHD Source

Gamified internal innovation collaboration platform

Global media communications company PHD created Source, an online collaboration platform to help conceive, design and implement media planning and buying strategies for clients. To encourage friendly competition between employees, users receive Pings for each action they take on the platform. Public leaderboards allow employees to see how their contributions rank, and there are annual prizes for leading employees. Three months after deployment, 75% of PHD’s 3,000 staff were using the platform, 1,500 doing so daily. The agency attributed the platform as critical in winning a USD 3 billion Unilever account.


Now it's time to unleash the disruptive innovator hidden inside every colleague.


Make it your job to interrupt your colleagues.

Because the innovation that changes everything won't come via business as usual.

In a perfect world, your colleagues would be not only spotting trends continuously, but also implementing the new trend-led products, services and campaigns that could be your next (or first!) breakthrough hit.

But for the most part, your colleagues are busy with business as usual. And the only innovations they’ll come up with in their day-to-day work are incremental changes on what you’re already doing.

Empowering colleagues to become disruptive innovators won’t happen by accident – it takes focused action. One compelling way is via specific programs or competitions, where staff can propose, pitch and launch new innovations themselves.

Whatever you run with, aim for short bursts of focus and excitement that interrupt ‘business as usual’. And when thinking about how to reward colleagues that engage, remember that recognition and a sense of having made a difference can be even more important than material prizes.


Adobe Kickbox

Employees can request box containing innovation toolkit

Adobe is a global software development company. The company launched its Kickbox to empower all employees to become innovators. Any employee can request a Kickbox, and managers cannot veto a request. Recipients are sent a red box containing an innovation ‘toolkit’: a chocolate bar, a USD 10 Starbucks card, Post-it notes, a notebook, a step-by-step innovation manual and a pre-paid credit card with USD 1,000 to spend as they wish (no receipts are required). Recipients are challenged to use the toolkit to help them present an innovation idea to senior colleagues. In January 2015, Adobe made Kickbox public, enabling anyone to download the materials for free.


Inside your organization, but also outside your organization.


You know how you have all your best ideas out of the office?

Take a team, give them a home, and set them free to experiment.

You can, and should, do everything in your power to create a culture of trend-driven innovation in your organization. But one truth remains: it’s hard to think truly radical thoughts when you’re coming to the same office, seeing the same people, and facing the same day-to-day challenges.

One answer? Create separate, specific units outside your core organization that have innovation as their focus. Call them labs, skunkworks, whatever: the point is that being separated from the core – and granted a mission of creative destruction – enables these units to shake off organizational convention, be more daring in their thinking, and experiment with, execute and deploy new ideas faster. What’s more, they’ll help you attract a broader range of creative thinkers.

Of course, the key here is getting senior management buy-in. No one said being a trend champion would be easy! You could start by showing them how labs have worked successfully for other brands – such as Westfield (see below).


Westfield Labs

70 person division pursues compelling retail innovations

Westfield operates malls in the UK, Europe, the USA and Australasia. They established their San Francisco-based Westfield Labs to target innovations at the convergence of digital and real-world retail. One of the projects piloted by the lab is a food-ordering app, Dine on Time. Users can pre-order food from restaurants in the Westfield San Francisco Center to avoid waiting in line, or arrange to have meals delivered to their home or office. Users can also use the app to order off-menu special dishes.



Feed your trend culture with external inspiration, ideas and opportunities.


An awesome trend culture can't stop at the door. You need to build connections far beyond your office walls.


Make EVERYONE your trendwatcher.

Or at least invite them in. Hey, it works for us ;)

Just as sharing information between colleagues is vital for an awesome trend culture, so too is sharing with and learning from those who are not part of your organization. Indeed, consumer expectations accelerate so rapidly and creative destruction is so rampant that no organization can expect to keep up simply by relying on its own people.

There’s a whole world of ideas, insights and experience out there – tap it! Digital technologies offer an incredible opportunity to build and engage with super-smart people on a global scale, at low cost. Organize your platform around a shared interest (such as consumer trends), or even around a specific trend (see the Crowd Companies example, below).

And yes, we’ve been tapping the collective wisdom of thousands of trend spotters for years via the TrendWatching Insight Network (TW:IN). What, you mean you’re not already a member?


Crowd Companies

Platform brings corporates together with collaborative economy startups

Online platform Crowd Companies connects large companies with the disruptive startups that shape the Collaborative Economy. It has three main activities: a brand council which enables corporate members to share experiences at events and via an online platform; educational services that allow members to learn from startup practitioners; and partnerships that give both corporates and startups new opportunities. Founder corporate members include Barclaycard, Ford, GE, Nestlé and Walmart. Collaborative Economy innovator members include crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, makerspace TechShop and ridesharing platform Lyft.


You don't have a monopoly on smart people. Just saying.


If you ask them, they will come.

Leverage the power of the crowd by opening up your innovation efforts.

Reality check: no matter how large or compelling your organization, most of the smartest people will still be working for someone else. That’s the idea that underpins ‘open innovation’ – a term coined by Henry Chesborough, a professor at the Haas School of Business, in 2003.

Open innovation encompasses many approaches, but the central idea is simple: to create compelling innovations, seek external inputs when innovating. A 2014 Haas Business School study showed that 78% of large companies were now engaged in some form of open innovation.

So think about competitions intended to engage entirely new people in your innovation efforts – see below how platform eYeka leverages that idea – as well as communities that bring diverse individuals together and platforms that empower other innovators and bring their products and services into your ecosystem.


eYeka & Unilever

Global brand leverages global community of creative professionals

Global crowdsourcing platform eYeka, founded in France, connects brands with a global community of creative professionals. Brands use the platform to set creative challenges to the community, which in October 2015 numbered over 330,000. Unilever used the platform to run their ‘Dirt is Good’ challenge, asking for ideas for a campaign to change the attitude of mothers towards hygiene and children. The month-long contest saw 88 ideas submitted, with the winning idea being a 3D-animation submitted by a German dancer. Other users of the platform include Oral B, Citroën, and Carrefour.


Share physical space with other organizations to get access to new people and resources.


Empty desk, meet smart person.

Give your spare desk space to some smart outsiders. Or BE the outsiders coming in!

Online collaboration is great (and necessary). But physical proximity still counts.

One thing that larger, incumbent organizations frequently have is a surplus of physical space – or the resources to provide it. So why not share that space with smaller startups, creative communities, and individuals who can share their ideas and processes with you? Or if you’re a small outfit, how about looking around for a large organization that would make a great home, or consider a co-working space?

The Hatch example (below) demonstrates how large organizations can ride the co-working trend, to the mutual benefit of themselves and the teams they house.


3Space & Barclays: Hatch

Co-working space focused on social enterprises and community groups

Financial services giant Barclays partnered with nonprofit 3Space to open Hatch in late 2014. Hatch is a co-working space focused on social enterprises and community groups and is housed in a vacant ex-Barclays bank branch in Oxford. Qualifying users can access the co-working space for free, while the unit also hosts mentoring sessions and a makerspace with sewing machines, workshop tools and a 3D printer.


Because you can't out innovate everyone, all the time.


If you can't beat them...

... why not nurture, accelerate, fund and acquire them?

Another way for your organization – especially if yours is a large incumbent – to ride new waves of consumer trends? Nurture, partner with and invest in the very startups that threaten to disrupt you.

By lending startups your resources, expertise and experience, you can help them refine their proposition and scale. And when they do this inside your walled garden, you both reap the benefits.

Especially in the non-digital world, where production and distribution at scale pose serious operational challenges, partnerships can be very attractive for smaller organizations. However, even startups with a digital product can often be seduced by the resources and large existing customer bases of incumbents, as Telefónica’s Wayra program (below) shows.


Telefónica Wayra

Accelerator program nurtures and invests in startups

Multinational telecoms provider Telefónica’s open innovation program includes startup accelerator program Wayra which, by early 2015, had expanded to 12 countries, including Argentina, Germany and the UK. Successful startups sell between 7-10% equity to Telefónica in return for up to USD 50,000 in funding and the same amount in services. Startups spend six months in a Wayra co-working space, and gain access to Telefónica’s expertise and executives. By 2015, the program had received nearly 30,000 applications and accepted 438. Telefónica reported that 61% had received an additional USD 99 million in funding from third parties, while 80 startups also piloted projects with the core Telefónica business.



Sure, here's a recap.


Build a culture of spotting and applying trends, time after time.

1. DEFINE: make sure everyone understands the three building blocks of any trend – basic needs, drivers of change and innovations.

2. INSPIRE: once your colleagues understand trends, light a fire of trend enthusiasm with an awesome trend presentation – and keep it burning!

3. COLLABORATE: it’s not enough only to share ideas, you need to take collaborative action, too.

4. EMPOWER: unleash the disruptive innovator hidden inside every colleague.

5. LABS: take a team, give them a home, and set them free to experiment.


Feed your trend culture with external inspiration, ideas and opportunities.

6. NETWORK: an awesome trend culture means building connections beyond your office doors – so make EVERYONE your trendwatcher.

7. CROWDSOURCE: leverage the power of the crowd by opening up your innovation efforts.

8. HOUSE: share physical space with other organizations to get access to new ideas and new people.

9.VENTURE: nurture and invest in the startups that threaten to disrupt your organization.


You're already deep in planning for 2016 – make sure trends are a part of it!

You can't go it alone.

You can only be a lone trend champion for so long. In the end, it will be about getting buy-in from colleagues, including senior management. So start practising your diplomacy ;)


We can help!

An awesome trend culture has to be fueled by a constant stream of trend and innovation content – and tools to apply them. Our Premium Service will tick that box, at a disruptively affordable price! That leaves you with more time and capacity to do what only YOU can – create your next killer product, service or campaign.