Gary’s Newsletter #394 – WHY TRENDS MATTER

Two articles got me thinking this week. One, by former APA president James Bray discusses “The Future of Psychology Practice and Science” (American Psychologist July-August 2010). The other, “Are you Ignoring Trends That Could Shake Up Your Business?”  in Harvard Business Review (July-August). Both articles have broad application. Both assume that our work, careers and ministries can be shaped positively by trends, but derailed if we ignore cultural changes and continue with business as usual. Some observations:

  • Identify trends that matter. Unlike passing fads, trends persist, impacting people’s perceptions, behaviors, relationships and lifestyles. For example, social networking and sophisticated hand-held cellular devices impact how people communicate, get and share information, learn, advertise, shop, make purchases, get entertainment, connect with counselors or even look for spiritual guidance.
  • Consider how trends can impact your life or profession. Psychology provides an example. Psychological practice is being shaped by developments and research on the behavioral applications of cognitive neuroscience, climate change, genetic research, nonlinear methods, changing health-care, and evidence-based methods.
  • Ignoring trends can give others opportunity to transform our industries, professions and training institutions. Harmful change can come when trends are understood and utilized by our competitors, rivals, other professions, insurance companies, accrediting agencies, or unscrupulous politicians.
  • Keep positive. Certainly some trends are potentially harmful. But God put us on earth at a time of incredible change and opportunity. Be realistic but look for the bright side of present and emerging trends. Remember God is in control.
  • Three features can help us respond to trends. Connections with others enable us to gauge whether trends are worth leveraging. Courage motivates us consider trends and sometimes make changes.  Imagination provides the ability to conceive how any trend can be adapted or incorporated into existing ways of doing things. One example is Nike. The shoe maker adapted to a fitness-oriented, computer-connected generation by producing shoes that link with a runner’s iPod to give updates on speed, distance and calories burned – along with music.

Please leave a comment about how you deal with trends in your life, leadership, work or people building.

  1. I find myself trying to stay connected to some “trends” not knowing if they’ll last but wanting to have a foot in the door just in case they do. It can be diversionary but seems important to be as aware as possible …

    • Hey Phil, I think you are one of the first people to respond with an insertion of your picture. Thanks. That’s not a fad.
      Thanks too for your comment. From what I know about you, you demonstrate what you write about – the commitment to keeping up with what is going on.

    • Sergio E. Mijangos
    • July 29th, 2010

    We just had last week a class taught by two American professors who teach in two academic institutions in CO. Both of them were very impressed how knowledgeable our 32 students from 10 countries were in the use of Internet for research, our virtual classroom for posting their homework, the availability of cell phones, and how most students used a laptop computer for their class and had wireless Internet in the classroom. The changes in technology are definitely making an impact in our counseling circles, even though we minister in Guatemala where not all the technology is as available as it is in the USA. Thank you for this article it is very encouraging to know the importance of being aware of the new trends.

    • I am not at all surprised that your students show a good “use of Internet for research, your virtual classroom for posting their homework, the availability of cell phones, and how most students use a laptop computer for their class and had wireless Internet in the classroom.” What surprises and saddens me is that any professor from an American academic institution would be surprised at what your students are doing. Sadly, some American institutions are way behind and show a reluctance to embrace these methods in their own institutions. Do these people show awareness of trends in their lectures? If not are they moving toward irrelevance? I am not so much critical as sad. But I congratulate you and your school. I know what you are modeling for your students.

  2. I like the fact that Gary makes a distinction between trends and fads. We have all seen many fads come and go – although I do not have research to support this, my personal observation is that it seems to me that the Christian community (and counsellors), are more prone to follow fads uncritically and without doing due diligence in evaluating first.
    How would we distinguish between fads and trends? Was deliverance ministry a fad or a trend? Was the recovery movement (12 steps) a fad or a trend? Was the inner-healing movement (Theophostics) a fad or a trend? Is the current secular post-modern-spirituality (mindfulness contemplative spirituality) a fad or a trend?
    Do we just ‘ride the wave’ of the trend/fad, or do we also have a responsibility to critique and evaluate (from an integrative psychology/theology perspective) before we get on board? Asking questions of trends/fads are often interpreted as being negative and uncritical acceptance and compliance is often deemed desirable.
    I am in agreement that we need to stay in touch with trends and that we need to keep up with new knowledge and developments, but not without asking the hard questions.

    • This is a beautiful response – thoughtful as always. In my classes I tell students that much (or at least a lot) of what they are learning probably will be outdated within a few years. The students are encouraged to learn the material and skills that we teach in class, but they also need to know how to psychologically, theologically, and intellectually evaluate new things that come along and not be broadsided with things that are new. The students also need to see the value of trends rather than blindly moving forward with their eyes closed.
      I agree that we like to jump on board the latest thing without much evidence. And we forget that personal experience (“It blessed me,” for example) is not really evidence. Subjective experience is interesting and often makes good stories but these conclusions are not very solid without looking at more objective research or asking the hard questions that you mention in your post.
      And I don’t think that applies only to Christians. I see similar biases in psychology or the coaching field even though these prejudices are in people who should know better.

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