A few years back, Rick Segal, then a Canadian venture capitalist and I visited several European countries to talk with as many people as we could regard Web 2.0 and social media. We often got asked to predict what trends we saw.
Rick had a great answer. If you want to understand what's going to happen in the next five, ten or 20 years, don't read any analyst report, he counseled. Instead go down the hall and speak to you kids. Watch what they do with their time. Chances are pretty good that when they grow up and become employee and enter the marketplace, their habits today will be their habits in the future.
I thought it was pretty good advice and I have often reused it, sometimes forgetting to provide proper attribution. Since then, I started avoiding forecasting as often as I could. I've also started to avoid "bests" and "favorites" lists because what I like today may not be what I like tomorrow and more than that they may not be the ones you should select as a most or best.
But the big part of Rick's lesson to me is to pay attention to young people. What they are concerned with or excited about gives you a sense of what mainstream thinking will be like in the near term future.
This all shot back to me because in a half hour, I will be guest tweeting/skyping to a graduate school class at Purdue led by my SNCR friend Mihaela Vorvoreanu. You can follow the conversation at the hashtag #tech621. I love talking with college students because I learn so very much from these experiences. I'm grateful that technology has made it so brain-dead simple to let me make virtual visits such as this one.