How does a trend expert work? What is a trend really, and how do they even spot and analyze trends? We have asked the finnish futurist Elina Hiltunen. She is the author of ‘Foresight and Innovation’ and the co-inventor of ‘TrendWiki’.

This is a small excerpt from the book ‘Trendsociology v. 2.0’, published by pej gruppen. Buy the book here.


Why and how did you become a trend expert?

I think of myself as a weak signal spotter. Trends are already visible to us and they have some kind of history.

Weak signals are the early signals of emerging trends. By collecting weak signals you can try to recognise patterns of emerging trends. I start my spotting even before the signals turn into trends. Weak signals are ‘pre-trends’.

I have a natural tendency to spot weak signals. I do it all the time, also when I am not officially working. I collect them by taking photos with my smartphone, reading and saving Twitter feeds and links, and sharing these findings in my social networks. I also work with my findings in my projects and synthesise emerging trends.

And how did I become a weak signal spotter?  I have grown into It is also in my nature. I am curious, always spotting, trying new things and constantly asking questions. And this has become the basis for my business. Year by year, I have further refined my spotting abilities and have noticed that companies are increasingly asking for my services.

“If you want to be successful in the future, you have to be prepared for

the future.” Elina Hiltunen, Trend expert

Why is it important to forecast trends?

If you want to be successful in the future, you have to be prepared for the future. Spotting trends is essential. I emphasise to my clients that looking at other businesses and areas other than their own industry is also very important. However, I also emphasise that there are threats in only relying on trend spotting. Not all trends will become mainstream. Some trends also die faster than others. And then there are hypes. As a consequence, scenario thinking is a natural next step of trend spotting and it should be included in all trend spotting workshops.

How do you define the concept of a trend?

There are trends of various ‘sizes’ in my mind. An emerging trend is something that you can see only in the form of weak signals. With emerging trends there are often a couple of examples of the trend happening but no clear evidence is present.

Weak signals are signals of emerging trends, while trends are clusters of events that are already happening and have happened in near history. They can exist in various areas geographically, in various industries and in different classifications (social, technological, environmental, economic, political, etc.). For organisations, it is important to look holistically at trends. Examples of trend correlations: Increase in service robotics, increase in number of smart phones, decrease in number of landlines.

Megatrends are trends that exist much longer than trends. They have ‘longer roots’ in history, and changes in megatrends take time. They also affect larger areas geographically than trends. Some of them are global, such as globalisation, urbanisation, increasing middle class, etc.

Which types of trends interest you the most?

I am mostly interested in pre-trends or emerging trends, which can be found by spotting weak signals. I am interested in technology trends as I have been working on this issue extensively. But I am also a generalist. I have been working on trends within travel, work, education, etc. I would say that the only area that I am not interested in is fashion trends.

How and where do you discover trends?

I travel, read books and magazines, interview people, browse social media, etc.


Are you interested in getting your hands on the entire book, (it’s 400 pages), it is possible to buy here.

The book consists of three parts:
1. Theory and practical description of what a trend is, how it is spread and what effect it may have.
2. Interview with 17 of the world’s top trend researchers
3. Practical process description (5 phased process) with concrete methods and tools for working with trends.