We often tend to mistake these in organizations
Trends: See, hear and feel what is going on, and find patterns that seem to be repetitive and may stay like this for a while. To be clear, things are already happening. This is not a prediction of what may happen.
Hunches: guesses and personal intuitions; irrational but strong; maybe biased or not (OK, all out thinking is biased)
Predictions: a statement of probability of something that will happen in future. It is not happening yet.
These three things are not equal. Everybody in management and leadership positions must master trends. It’s the translation of being tuned with realities and markets, plus the ability to ‘see and hear’, and, to identify a pattern. You can’t be a good leader and be blind to trends. This is something that you cannot outsource to a Market Research department.
Hunches are by definition irrational but some people, for whatever reason, seem to be good at them. You don’t build a strategy based on hunches, but you don’t ignore the ones that people ‘with good intuition’ have. You don’t bank on them permanently either
Predictions are the basis for strategy. They require being very good at trends first, take into account a bit of hunch, and project into a future. Predictions are stronger and more useful when they come ‘as a range’, not as a fixed destination. You would expect ‘proper predictions’ to be based upon solid premises, not the latest series of interviews to 100 CEOs.
A lot of commercial, business literature mixes trends and predictions. There is a whole industry of trends that speaks the language of predictions, but that, in fact, simply collate a reality already happening. This does not make them less useful but you need to know what you are reading.
Organizations need all of the above, including systems that collate all the data point, soft and hard. Predictions, and therefore the strategy built upon those pillars, are always an on-going affair, a continuous building of a picture in permanent state of recalibration. There will always be imperfect. Your goal is not to get it right but to avoid as many errors as possible, to makes less mistakes than competitors.
Strategy needs clarity. Call a trend a trend, a hunch a hunch and a prediction a prediction. Make sure the sources are well understood. It’s very easy to extrapolate the whole future from a couple of focus groups