Carl Rohde is not a trendwatcher per see. He is a sociologist interested in cultural mentality. He has built up a pretty unique approach to find signs of the cool: attractive, inspiring new things with growth potential. And the word cool is not chosen randomly here. Cool is a concept that people understand instinctively and globally. Because Rohde works on a global scale. It is not him who decides on his own what it the cool stuff on any subject, his eyes and ears are his students and associates. Rohde teaches on (almost) all continents. Part of his assignment is take photographs, describe what it is and why it is cool. Select the best cool hunt of the week, and upload it to the cool hunting platform. The cool hunters rate each other’s works. The items that have most potential will show up. The network of associates does pretty much the same thing, but there everyone has his own specialty.
Afer the cool hunting, the clustering and interpretation begins. One observation doesn’t tell much. But when this is reported by several people from different places, then something is going on. Then Rohde starts to see a trend, a new cultural phenomenon that could be of commercial interest. His clients, to a large extent companies in consumer goods and services, use these insights for their own product development. Rohde mentioned a trend from the early 2000’nds: secret partly places that only a few people know of, the hip and upcoming places in cities like Berlin. This trend of “secrecy please” was used by companies to design limited editions and pop up stores. Things that you need to know about to get your hands on a cool item.
The platform of cool hunters is a way to find trends that are grounded in data. It consists of cool hunts, discovered by a large crowd of field workers, who are spotting their trends 24/7 and take an additional two hours daily to report their field notes. To me this is a neat sociological methodology that brings scientific underpinning to the work of trend research, that is often considered merely intuitive and artistic. On top of this data driven approach, Rohde’s secret perhaps, is what he learns from the work of non-fiction writers. His hours on planes are filled with books about history (Medieval times in particular) , current affairs and journalistic analyses. In this way he absorbs years of research by other people that gives him a wide range perspective on trends and their potential meaning.
The futurists gathered at the session continued with group discussions on this methodology. They talked about the cultural differences in the attitudes of people in hunting for trends on the streets. Also they mentioned the negative, undesired trends that may also be observed by cool hunters and how to report on those. With a shared interest and experience in future studies, talking about cool hunting metholodology was an enjoyable way to meet new people and catch up with familiar faces.
This article was originally published at www.dutchfuturesociety.com