Is interest in "strategy" declining? [Updated 2019]

I first started monitoring interest in the terms "strategy" and "business strategy" in 2014, and have just now (February 2019) reviewed and updated it.

I use a simple metric: Google Trends.

If you're not familiar with it, Google Trends shows how frequently a given search term is entered into Google’s search engine relative to the site’s total search volume over a given period of time.

As of February 2019, Google Trends shows that searches for the terms "strategy" have reduced, relatively, by considerably more than 50% since they started tracking in 2004:

The relative decline in searches for the term "business strategy" over the same period is almost as severe:

It is interesting to note how much more cyclical the trend in searches for "business strategy" is. This suggests that interest in business strategy remains tightly coupled to annual business planning cycles, despite all the evidence suggesting that a more continuous attention to business strategy is better.

I did a little more digging around. I won't bore you with the charts each time, but in summary:

  • relative search interest in "business" itself has also declined by about 50% but with greater signs of levelling off or even rebounding. Perhaps web-searches have broadened out into more non-commercial topics over the period.
  • relative searches for "SWOT" have also declined, but by much less, whilst relative searches for "PESTEL" have more than doubled. Perhaps people are increasingly aware that strategy is a complex an multi-faceted challenge, and so are resorting to more specific rather than more generic searches.
  • following on that theme, I expected to see that relative searches for "business model" would also have increased, owing to the recent popularity of talking about firms competing on this basis. Interestingly, relative searches for "business model" actually declined by nearly 50% from 2004 to a low in 2008, and have only recently now recovered to their 2004 levels.
  • relative searches for "operating model", another recently popular term, show a similar trend. However, relative searches for "Target Operating Model" have shown a steady increase from almost nothing to a current high over the whole period.

Has business strategy as a pursuit really declined by more than 50% in the last 15 years compared to other interests? This seems to be a worrying trend.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on what it might mean and/or on what other terms I should look at as part of my review. Please feel to let me know in the comments below.

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