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Fad or Trend

One of the key tricks in innovation is trying to figure out whether something you’re looking at is a fad or a trend.
Alane Wilson from OCLC said last week that a fad can be part of a trend which makes it even more confusing.
Can you tell the difference between a pet rock and a video tape recorder?
Pet rocks were a fad. I guess Millennials might not know this reference so they can substitute pogs. Trolls were a fad – at least three times for different generations. They flashed, didn’t mutate too much, and headed for obscurity (or I guess eBay now).
Beta and VHS were a trend. They were part of the overall evolution of DVD, TiVO, streaming media, YouTube and viral video, etc. etc.
Now you know the difference between a fad and a trend. Ha! It’s not always so cut and dried and it painfully dificult to see the trend when you’re in the moment.
Fads aren’t necessarily fun, cheap or quick. Trends aren’t necessarily easy to see and they may not follow a simple evolutionary path.
Libraries are good managers of money and don’t spend it on faddish things. We try to make sure that it has some long lasting value. We want to capitalize on trends.
While fads are by definition mostly short and intense, a trend is part of a longer, more complex ecological change. The trick is seeing what ‘flow’ the innovation is part of.
Alane talks about the fad of women bobbing their hair in the twenties and how that fad was a part of the overall trend of women’s liberation. This is a good way to look at things. Is your fad part of a longer trend?
Are eBook readers, in the device of the week flavor, a fad or part of a larger trend?
Are new DRM methods a fad or a trend?
Are iPods a fad or part of a larger trend?
What about videogaming in libraries? PDA’s? SmartPhones?
Are wristbands, a la Lance Armstrong, for libraries a fad?
How about garage rock band concerts in libraries or Dance Dance Revolution nights?
I think that we can learn from fads and it’s not frivolous. We can learn from the components of trends and get important learning too. It probably doesn’t matter that we’re exactly right all the time. Those folks who have a small closet or hard drive full of old early stage software, old ebook readers, PDA’s, phones, palm size PC’s, games, have learned things earlier than others. They are better prepared to evaluate the next stage in the trend. Take a look at your bookmarks. Which were fads and which were trends? Are bookmarks a fad (thnk By trying new things and checking them out, we learn how to ask better questions. Deciding when to jump in and what to play with is a key skill in being ready for the changes in our lives and communities.
With this in mind, maybe we need to play and share in the sandbox more. BTW, you don’t need to buy all these devices. I find just asking for demos at the (Sony, Apple, telephone, toy) store often teaches me a lot. Now that there are so many of these stores in airports, it’s like a built-in playground with forced waiting! I might even buy something.
Play, Try, Demo, Pilot, … find the unintended consequences!

Posted on: May 9, 2006, 7:10 am Category: Uncategorized

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