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'Microtrends' Move Across the Land

There's a fellow named Mark Penn who's getting a lot of pub these days. He would like that word. It's short for publicity, and he's in the publicity business. He's a prominent pollster and public-relations executive who is one of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's key advisers. He's the guy who coined the term soccer moms to describe busy suburban, working women who proved to be a decisive voting bloc in several 1990s elections.

And Penn is still keenly tracking societal trends. Or rather, what he calls "microtrends." That's the name of a book he co-authored, and it's not just about politics.

Everybody knows the big trends: smaller cars, more technical gadgets, increased acceptance of organic foods, greater sensitivity to our environment. But Mark Penn writes that the biggest movements in America today are small.

Companies shouldn't panic about an aging workforce about to leave them with too many jobs to fill, for instance, he says. Americans love to work, and retirees are gladly taking on a lot of the tasks.

Then there are what Penn calls "thirty-winkers." Americans aren't getting enough sleep, so companies are setting up nap rooms.

And our sleep-deprived population is eating more junk food, getting fatter, and developing health problems it can't always pay for.

Mark Penn writes that while women are taking on bigger and more public roles in many American churches, stricter religions that keep women in subordinate roles are growing the fastest. And there's anecdotal evidence that, for reasons not fully understood, the proportion of lefties — not people on the political left but actual left-handers in the U.S. population — is increasing. Since lefties are reputed to be especially creative, the upsurge could bring greater innovation to corporate America and even the military.

Like zephyrs, microtrends blow through and soon pass. But they're fun to talk about while they last.