How one Israeli is predicting the future

"Predicting trends is recognizing a change at the very onset and realizing that it is going to intensify and affect the entire population.”

VINYL RECORDS: A return to nostalgia.  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
VINYL RECORDS: A return to nostalgia.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The first question I wanted to ask business futurist Adi Yoffe, who recently wrote the book HABA – How To Predict Trends in a Disruptive World, was:
What is this disruptive world to which you’re referring?
“When I was a child and they opened the first supermarket, we could predict that in two years’ time they’d open an even larger supermarket. And indeed, that’s what happened,” explains Yoffe.
“In a perfect world, I could tap into past events and predict events in the present and future. If we could predict in a linear fashion what will happen in the future, then the world would not be disruptive. However, we cannot make predictions based solely on the past, because each moment something unexpected happens. I can’t rely on what a specific industry has created in the past to understand how it will look a few years from now. If the world were linear, there’d be no need for people like me. But the world is disruptive and the only way to understand it is by looking through new glasses.”
What does it mean that you predict trends?
“A trend is a change in behavior. For example, if I stop eating meat, then I’ve changed my behavior,” explains Yoffe. “And if many people stop eating meat, then this could also have an influence over companies that sell meat. Or, I could start doing sports all of a sudden, or begin shopping online instead of going to the mall. The question is, when do we recognize that a change has occurred and how do we react to this change? Predicting trends is recognizing a change at the very onset and realizing that it is going to intensify and affect the entire population.”
Is it possible to predict trends in the age of social networking?
“Well, it sure does make predicting trends more complicated and that’s one of the reasons I wrote my book. I felt like there was a lot of confusion regarding trendology, and I wanted to lay out my methodology so people could better understand it. Our job is not to identify fads and which colors will be popular this fall, but to develop an understanding of why certain things are happening.
“Say, for example, I see a lot of different types of gluten-free bread for sale, the trend is probably wider than just how much gluten-free products are sold. The trick is to examine everything happening in the food industry, and crosscheck this with everything happening in the fields of technology and transportation and only then figure out what the parameters should be before we can reach a conclusion. It usually takes large corporations a longer time to react to changes, and therein lies our challenge.”
Who’s the target audience for your book?
“Everyone. For years, there’ve been surveys that show that every single business owner needs to think about the future if they want their business to succeed. To identify the next big thing. We all need to develop this sensor, since none of us knows if in this rapidly changing world our career will still exist in five years’ time. Planning for the future and the ability to see the big picture is more important than succeeding in the present.”
Yoffe began exploring the world of trendology after working for Deloitte Consulting. She established Deloitte’s marketing division and then managed it for four and a half years. During her maternity leave after she gave birth to her first child, Yoffe began toying with the idea of opening her own business.
“Already back in 2006 I began dreaming of creating a business, but there was nothing yet to base it on,” Yoffe said. “Amazon was still just a bookstore and Facebook wasn’t very developed yet. But then I began ordering books on predicting the future and trendology. I began my own personal learning and then I opened up my company, in which I make sure to learn about everything happening in the world and remain updated. This takes up a lot of time. Then, I take all of this information, examine it, and write predictions.”
Which trends have you predicted?
“At the end of 2013, I spoke of a trend I called hives, as in beehives. I was referring to consumer hives. I predicted that online communities would become stronger, and this has indeed happened. These communities have become a very strong social and economic force. Another time, I predicted that communities would get rid of their old worker committees and the old-fashioned models. I also came up with minimalist consumerism, which predicted that people would not remain loyal to brand names; that we prefer to get cheaper products quicker.”
Another trend that Yoffe predicted is the ‘future of the caves’ – the return of nostalgia. “I used the word future since it’s not really a return to the past, but is part of the future,” she explains. “We can see this clearly in a number of companies and fields. There’s a tendency to want to avoid globalization, to go back in time. We can see this in the number of vinyl records that are being sold. Some people are feeling like their lives in this world of technology have become meaningless. As we get more and more comfortable with technology entering into every aspect of our lives and adjusting to the convenience, we are no longer thinking for ourselves and doing things because we really want to. Instead, algorithms are making decisions for us.”
How many years in advance can you predict?
“I call it ‘the forseeable future.’ Methodologically, I look at things we can already see. I can’t tell you what will happen in 10 or 20 years from now – I’m not interested in something that hasn’t been invented yet. But I am looking at things that are happening now, and from them I can conclude how they will affect us. Not every occurrence changes the world, but a combination of events can affect entire industries.”
Are your predictions just for Israel or for the whole world?
“My book deals mostly with predictions based on the Western world. A few deal with local issues, such as the 2011 social protests in Israel. But my goal is to show how the most important trends are cross-cultural.”
So, what do you predict for our future?
“We are currently in a period in which people are wondering what’s happening to us as a society following all the technological advances. On the one hand, some people are trying to recreate the world of yesteryear in which people help each other. On the other hand, we see how much technology has estranged us from each other. What we need to do is figure out how to live in this world with these two contrasting sides of the same coin. I call it ‘the future of synthesis,’ which we are continually exploring. That’s where we exist now – constantly flowing between these two poles.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.