Trends Analysis

This exercise unpacks the forces that push us back and forth—which in turn are the things that tend to shape our day to day. It’s important to understand the environment you’re operating in. This opening exercise helps paint a picture of the problem space so that we can uncover areas for innovation, as well as avoid the same old traps we tend to fall into.

  1. Draw a large wave on a large piece of paper/poster, then label and explain each area:
    1. Emerging—ideas and actions that are beginning to build momentum—not necessarily happening yet.
    2. Swell—things that are happening, which are new and are beginning to see results
    3. Crest—these are the things that consistently produce the best results, but there is little energy left and most likely limited growth.
    4. Trough—the things that are done, which don’t work and are unclear—they might cause anxiety or confusion.
    5. Undertow—these are the deep problems that just cause trouble, sometimes despite success
  2. In your groups please come up with as many ideas as you can for individual elements that fit under each of the different areas.  Do not discuss your ideas for now; there will be time for that later.  Write your ideas on sticky notes, one idea per sticky note, in large block letters so everyone can read them.  Try to keep your ideas between 3 and 5 words.  Come up with as many as you can! 
  3. In groups of 2 or 3 people, share your ideas for each area of the wave.  Have each person read their ideas aloud to the group, and allow other group members to ask questions to clarify what they mean.  Note, we are not getting into debates about whether we agree or not – just sharing ideas and asking questions to clarify that we understand each other.  If you have any duplicate ideas amongst yourselves, get rid of all but one copy of that idea.
  4. Now that everyone has shared their answers, work together to move the ideas into clusters of similar ideas.  Decide as a group how these clusters should be formed. 
  5. Beginning with Emerging, each team is now going to come up and post their ideas on the main wave.  Read each aloud, and we’ll have some discussion for clarity. 

Lead the group through a set of reflective questions:

  • What words catch your attention?
  • What surprises you? What intrigues you? What area are you most passionate about?
  • What do you think is most important? Which obstacle do you think needs to be addressed first? Why?
  • Write down one idea you think we should consider moving forward and discuss.