It has been said that the only thing certain about predicting the future is that the prediction will be wrong. That statement does not, however, negate the value of preparing for the future. While single, isolated predictions seldom materialize as expected, examining likely alternatives can be very productive. I have utilized the scenario building process as an effective tool for examining alternative futures. As a systematic and disciplined procedure for identifying central issues, critical factors, and driving forces, the scenarios I developed gave life and context to the new product development process at Frigidaire. Scenarios will stimulate your thinking, and prepare you to deal with, and capitalize on, the change that is inevitable in your consumers and markets. Best of all, having a set of alternative scenarios as part of your strategic planning process guides your trend tracking, permits you to react to changing conditions, and in many situations permits you to make decisions and take action that creates the future. You do not have to passively wait and see what happens to you. I have developed both written scenarios for long range planning, and visual or three dimensional scenarios that gave focus to product planning and development efforts.

The Scenario for the 2010 Kitchen

The following Scenario was written in 1996 to guide the development of a Concept Kitchen for the year 2010.

In the year 2010 many of the youngest baby bust and oldest baby boomlet generations in North America are finding themselves with their first opportunity to remodel their kitchens. Some are moving into their own homes for the first time, and others have grown tired of living with the used kitchens and appliances they purchased some five years earlier.

These families are living in homes that were built by baby boomers in the mid eighties and mid nineties. These homes are readily available since the number of boomers moving up to more deluxe homes, or down to smaller apartments and condos as they become empty nesters, far exceeds the number of home buyers in the smaller bust and boomlet generations.

With housing prices slightly depressed by this over supply, and average family size having declined to 2.5, funds are available for remodeling, and an enthusiasm for "doing it their own way" and "getting it right" drives both the home improvement and appliance industries.

The kitchens that these consumers have are relatively large, which suits their lifestyle well. Both partners are accustomed to sharing the cooking and cleaning chores, and often work together. This communal cooking frequently comes into play when entertaining small groups of friends as an alternative to eating out or attending cultural events.

The entertainment available to them in the home is often superior to what they find in traditional venues. For many of them the home has become the center of their social and business lives, with sophisticated home office, entertainment, and communications systems.

In the continuation of a trend that was first noted in the late '80s, these families find themselves trying to do more than they have time for. Time has become their most precious commodity. Anything that provides convenience, speed, and flexibility in meeting individual and changing needs is highly valued. Snacking (small meals at unconventional times and in unconventional places) has become a way of life. Quick meals are prepared throughout the week, with most gourmet or homemade meals prepared only on weekends.

Having grown up during an era of increased ethnic diversity and tolerance, these families have experienced a widening of their menus and eating habits. Their kitchens and pantries are filled with unusual ingredients, and they are looking for better ways to prepare ethnic foods. They often satisfy their desires for more complex ethnic menus through the purchase of prepared meals, in an effort to save precious time (often more valuable to them than money).

Most of these consumers are very comfortable with "information technology" and expect their products (appliances) to be smart enough to provide them with important information and communicate with their homes and personal computer systems. This connectivity is manifest in their use of home shopping and delivery for things as diverse as furniture and food.

When these consumers were growing up they were influenced by a steady stream of information about environmental responsibility and energy issues. They will take action, and make purchasing decisions, based on these environmental issues. The words "reduce, reuse, and recycle" represent concepts they both understand and live by.

Trend Tracking

I have found that the future of any business hinges upon its ability to identify the social, technological, environmental, and legislative trends that will shape its opportunities and products.

While the new-product development process always requires significant investments of time and resources, these investments sky-rocket if you wait until the course you should follow is obvious. Waiting too long to decide what product to produce makes it impossible to respond to your customers needs in a timely fashion.

With a modest effort and investment in identifying and tracking trends you can initiate appropriate product development projects much earlier. In fact, I have found that ongoing trend identification and tracking programs can prove to be the best source of new products and product refinement ideas. They can keep you ahead of the product development curve.

The examples on this page are all the result of my trend tracking efforts as leader of the Frigidaire Home Products "Concept Design Team."

The process of identifying or uncovering trends generally begins with the scanning of many resources (news, publications, conferences, the internet, and focus grouos with consumers).

While creating the Frigidaire Concept Design Team, I developed the following comprehensive list of subjects that were pertinant to uncovering trends that might have an impact on our business in both the short and long term.

• Appliances
• Architecture
   (Home Design & Housing)
• Automotive
• Business
• Clothing
• Competitors
• Cooking
• Demographics
• Design (Form, Color, & Texture)
• Ecology
• Environment
   (Energy, Resources, & Pollution)
• Entertainment
• Family
• Food & Eating Habits
• Fuzzy Logic
• Information Management
• Kitchen
• Laundry
• Legal
   (Legislative & Regulatory)
• Materials
• Nanotechnology
• New Products
• Packaging
• Process
• Product Safety
• Retailing
• Retro
• Scenarios
• Social
• Style
• Technology
• Transportation
• Virtual Reality
• Work

Page updated: March 11, 2015 11:48