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Is interest in "strategy" declining? [Updated August 2022]

I first started monitoring interest in the terms "strategy" and "business strategy" in 2014, and have just now (August 2022) 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 August 2022, Google Trends shows that searches for the terms "strategy" have reduced, relatively, by more than 50% since they started tracking in 2004:

There is some evidence that this decline may have levelled off in the last few years.

What is perhaps more interesting is the anomalous spike in March 2022 when the lines reaches 63. It is difficult to know what might have caused this. A sudden interest in strategy as a way out of COVID seems to simplistic an explanation. We will have to wait an see whether this remains a statistical anomaly or whether it portends a greater and more long term increase in interest.

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


In this case, the decline was initially even steeper and definitely seems to have levelled off since about 2006. The spike in March 2022 is even more pronounced, reaching 81.

It is interesting to note how much more cyclical the trend in searches for "business strategy" is. This could suggest 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. Another reader has also suggested that it could also suggest an interest from students at the beginning of their business studies courses.

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. The March 2022 spike is again evident. 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 30% from 2004 to a low in 2008. The recovered to their 2004 levels by about 2017 and have held that level ever since. The only exception is that same spike in March 2022, this time extending to April 2022.
  • relative searches for "operating model", another recently popular term, also declined from 2004 to 2007. Thereafter, it has gained in popularity at a steady but modest rate. For "operating model", the anomalous peak occurs a month earlier in February 2022.
  • relative searches for "Target Operating Model" have shown a steady increase from almost nothing in 2004 to a high in 2019. Thereafter there was a slightly decline in interest which then seemed to recover for another peak in March 2022.

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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