Just hype or a real trend? - Live sessions with Futurists

Distinguishing between the two can be crucial to organisations’ survival.

September 30, 2020, Gökce Sandal

With the accelerating pace of technological advances and an increasingly disruptive innovation landscape, it may be difficult to assess whether something is just hype or an actual signal of a transformative change. There are multiple reasons why the hype surrounding a new technology, product or business model may not translate into a real trend. The market may not be ready for it, it may not be technically feasible, or perhaps the said technology or product doesn’t address a well-defined need.

On November 24th 2020, Futures Platform launched its new service Futures Clinic, where the participants get to ask questions and discuss anything they’ve been curious about in live sessions with Futures Platform’s futurists.

In this first session, Futures Platform’s Content Director Dr Tuomo Kuosa discussed the topic “How to differentiate hype from real trends?”, followed by a lively Q&A session with the participants. The discussion covered many interesting points ranging from the impacts of Covid-19 to the correct assessment of wild cards and the relationship between hypes and verified trends.

Read more about how you can join the next Futures Clinic session and have live discussions with our futurists.





During his presentation in the first half of the session, Kuosa explained that hype is generally generated by mass media. This usually happens once weak signals, which are emerging signs of change that are typically only known to a small number of subject matter experts and researchers, reach to journalists.

Alternatively, influential companies can also overhype a new technology or product with strong marketing pushes.

Can a hype, then, cause a real trend to emerge by increasing interest and demand? And while it is easy to verify a past trend or hype by looking at historical data points, how can one differentiate the two when something is hyped in the present time?

According to Kuosa, the answer may vary. The hype generated by mass media can, at the very least, create a stock-market bubble and lead to an upward investment trend by raising oversized expectations among investors.

In the case of hype generated by marketing efforts, the likelihood of the type becoming a real trend also depends on the company’s ability to bring the hyped product or technology into reality in an impactful way, says Kuosa.

Thus, not all hypes are destined to fade away without any lasting impact. Strong investments and public interest may lead to the growth of the market and consequently transform the hype into a strengthening trend.

However, if the market is not ready for the hyped product or technology, or if it doesn’t solve any particular problem that makes customers’ lives easier, the hype will never reach mainstream adoption. It will instead end up in the valley of death, potentially leading to massive sums of investment going to waste.

Kuosa mentions the e-commerce bubble of the late 1990s as an example: While the concept of e-commerce had disruptive potential and indeed disrupted the market a decade later, neither the market nor the existing infrastructures were ready for the technology at the time.




As we’ve all recently witnessed the wild card of Covid-19 coming true and disrupting our lives, the topic of wild cards frequently came up during Futures Clinic’s discussion session.

Similar to hypes, it may be difficult to anticipate the future directions of wild cards, as well. Wild card phenomena can turn into strengthening trends when their likelihood of becoming real increases, says Kuosa. Indeed, there are several wild card phenomena that have recently become strengthening trends.

For instance, Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, and Covid-19 were all initially wild cards. Deadly pandemics, on the other hand, is still valid as a wild card since there is always the possibility of another pandemic breaking out in the future.

Kuosa highlights that strengthening trends may also become less plausible over time and turn into wild cards. For instance, passenger economy, which was once considered a highly promising business model and therefore a strengthening trend, has turned into a wild card with Covid-19’s negative impact on the MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) industry.

As the probability and the potential impacts of future trends continue to evolve in line with the latest cross-industry developments, Kuosa advises organisations to continuously re-visit Futures Platform’s foresight tool to stay on top of emerging changes and accordingly adjust their strategies.

Start a free trial of Futures Platform to explore phenomena that are driving the changes and stay up to date.





Meta S-Curve Model
The Meta S-curve analysis is one of the models that Futures Platform's futurists use to determine the trend signals


The heightened uncertainty of the post-pandemic era may make it particularly challenging for organisations to anticipate the long-term impacts of the pandemic and differentiate hype from trends.

The pandemic has prompted many companies to reconsider fixed long-term strategies and adopt a more dynamic perspective, says Kuosa. Covid-19 has also been an eye-opener in the sense that it urged organisations to start taking wild card phenomena more seriously and considering their potential impacts when planning for the long-term.

Kuosa also mentions sci-fi writing as one emerging trend among tech companies and big corporations to inform their innovation work. Methodologies such as sci-fi prototyping and worldbuilding help organisations imagine the future free from restraints, and they can be particularly well-suited to explore the potential impacts of wild cards, which human bias tend to ignore.

Tech giants such as Microsoft, Apple and Google have already been known to work with sci-fi writers pre-pandemic to unlock untapped innovation potential. With the pandemic having a lasting impact on organisations’ strategic processes, more agile and non-conventional new methods such as sci-fi prototyping may become more common.




Futures Clinic Ask Futurists Anything

The next Futures Clinic will be on November 19th, 2020 at 4 PM EEST, and the topic will be decided by the participants themselves.

Request a quote for your Futures Platform license today to get access to Futures Clinic and suggest the topics you would like to discuss with a futurist.


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