Every December and January, people go all nutso over year-end trends and predictions in pop culture, marketing, fashion, technology, social behavior and everything in between. Since I'm also a little nutso about this stuff, I decided to kick off 2016 by dissecting the one topic that seems to be top of mind for most of us at the top of the year. 

As marketers and innovators, our job often means identifying, creating, and capitalizing on cultural and behavioral trends. What are people doing? What will they do in the not-so-distant future? What will technology do? When do we use our gut?  When do we use what the data shows? The list goes on. We then have to somehow turn the answers to these questions into a set of action items for businesses and consumers. 

While it's true that no one has a crystal ball that perfectly predicts the futures of society (remember Y2K?), there are a few rules to live by if you're getting in the trends game. Whether you're a player or spectator, you need to know who you're listening to, why you're listening to them, and how to apply what you're hearing. On Innovation Crush, I had a chance to interview award-winning trends pioneer, author, and mompreneur, Jane Buckingham.  

About Jane: By the time she was 17, she was already one of Oprah's Favorite Things. The book she authored a year earlier, Teens Speak Out, had served as an in-depth observation of the lives and minds of teenage girls and caught the attention of the TV star. Born the daughter of a psychologist and journalist, Jane continued her development as an observer of culture, and eventually created some of the world's most followed trend reports, including the coveted Cassandra Report. Along the way, the Trendera CEO has authored several best-selling books under a family of "Modern Girl" titles that identify every-day life-hacks and social graces for the modern woman.

Without further ado, here are a few tips on how to make, understand, and leverage the trends we see.

1.) Be nosey by nature.

Most good trend spotters are what I often refer to as "culturally curious." Culturally curious people are genuinely interested in--if not fascinated by--all walks of life. They may love the idea of Comic-Con, but they don't go balls-out for the world's most amazing Lando Calrissian costume. In Jane's case, her high school friend once said she was more of an observer, rather than a participant. As natural observers, good trend forecasters see emotional and cultural pattern in multiple corners of society, and draw holistic conclusions behind the "why's" of the patterns they see. 

2.)  Have the need for speed.

Technology allows us to see from around the corner to around the world, identifying products, services, and ideas that we can immediately incorporate into our own lives. From fashion to music to entrepreneurial endeavors, every few weeks we're leapfrogging ourselves in the accelerated speed of culture. It's an I-want-it now world--and good trend spotters know they're chasing a moving target. In order to home in on the trend, you need to triangulate from multiple touch points of cultural influence.

3.)  Recognize the limits.

As even Jane admits, any trendsman knows her insights are not gospel. They're close, but they're no Moses on the mountain top. There are tons of if-then scenarios that cannot always be accounted for, and certain things may not directly apply to you and your business. Just because Kim Kardashian is trending, doesn't mean she should be promoting your line of connected Bible covers. 

4.)  Understand emotions.

As Jane alluded to many times during our chat, basic human needs are at the core of almost every trend. Even normcore--the horrid return of mom jeans and Canadian tuxedos--was rooted in a longing for nostalgia, a desire for simplicity, and occurred during a period where the even the cool kids felt like better times were behind us. By all means, take time to understand the mechanics of the trends you watch, but know that real success is found in between the lines.

5.)  Diversify.

Long gone are the traditional demographics industries have been used to. Thanks to the Internet, we can all uncover new and old interests, develop weird skills, and find multiple ways to express ourselves. Every day, we become more of a multi-hyphenated society. I'm a marketer. I'm an innovation enthusiast. I host a podcast. I'm a dad. I'm a husband. I'm Black. I'm Gen X, but I am Millennial-minded. I swim on a master's team three times per week. I love hip hop. I also like Emilian Torrini. Like all people, there are many sides to me. Therefore, good trends are a collection grouped behaviors based on cultural archetypes rather than--or sometimes in addition to--the traditional age/race/location demographics of yore.  

Good luck, and happy trending!