How to Forecast Future Trends – 6 Waves + 4 Steps

The “Big Picture”

To forecast future trends effectively, and with precision, you must step back to see the “big picture” of how current and upcoming trends might evolve over various time intervals, and then assess their trajectory, speed, and interaction.

Essentially, you compile a “jigsaw puzzle” of what the future will be like. You never have all the pieces, and they constantly change in shape, size, and color, thus reflecting the world in a state of flux. By looking for trend patterns, you can anticipate their magnitude – and thus “see” or envision their outcome with a high degree of accuracy. It is akin to very long-range weather forecasting, using satellite imagery to track the biggest trends.

Future trends emerge in two major, matrix-like dimensions:

*”6-WAVE”: 6 layered waves of future trends, each wave overlapped by the next, as society develops and modernizes; and

*”4-STEP”: 58-year mega-cycle of social, technical, economic, and political trends.

The resulting mega-cycling waves of future trends bring a “6-WAVE + 4-STEP” kaleidoscope of change – a giant multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. You then plot this satellite “map” of anticipated future trends across a 20-Year Timetable of 5-year intervals. It serves as a guide to decision-making and action – by individuals, societies, professions, organizations, industries, and governments.

“6-WAVE” Layers

In his book The Third Wave, futurist Alvin Toffler referred to the Agricultural Era and the Industrial Age as 1st-Wave Society and 2nd-Wave Society respectively. Third Wave Society is the post-Industrial period already well underway since about 1950 in the West.

Under-developed countries are stuck in a rut; bogged down as 1st-Wave agrarian societies, with people still living hand to mouth, working on a labor-intensive basis, just as people in Western countries did in their Agricultural Age. By contrast, rapidly-developing countries, such as China, are seeing a continual shift into the industrial and service sectors.

All economies modernize across this “1st-2nd-3rd Wave” path of development. Western nations have already moved beyond the 3rd-Wave, which is now so large that it employs about 85% of the North American work force. Indeed, Toffler’s “Third Wave” must now itself be divided into four distinct waves, giving us 6 waves or economic layers in total: