Prognostications

Want to have some fun?  Do a search for “predictions for 2013″ and use a search range of the six weeks prior to the start of the year.

Super Bowl Sunday Crystal Ball

(Photo credit: circulating)

You can do this for any year, but I took 2013 since the results of those predictions are still fresh in our minds.  Throwing out the fringe sources, one can find respected publications and authors making predictions about what was supposed to have happened last year.  You can click though here to a bunch from The Washington Post, as an example.  In some cases, they did pretty well.  In others, they could not have been more wrong (predicting Michelle Bachmann would become House Speaker when she ended up leaving Congress is just one example).

This sort of exercise seems sort of silly yet every business does this on a regular basis.  It’s important that we do so to a certain extent.  We need to predict demand and project sales.  We need to anticipate tastes and try to be ready when our customers need us to be.  The real issue, however, comes when we think we can predict the unpredictable.  To me that’s anything more than about six months down the road (something to think about the next time you’re asked for a five-year plan).

Most of us tend to weigh recent events much more heavily than longer term indicators. We also tend to forget that the past can only predict the future to a limited extent. Using data to make educated guesses is great, but it’s not the same as  predicting.  A forecast is an extension of trends.  It’s almost something a computer can do with a well thought out algorithm.  A prediction takes other factors into account.  Political realities that might change trends.  New technologies that can be disruptive and change those historical trends.

10 years ago here was one sage’s prediction for Facebook:

Facebook, lame or not, was certainly a heavy hitter of 2004, but watch out, I have a strong feeling it’s going to jump the shark. Maybe it already has.

Maybe so, but a billion plus users 10 years later shows just how hard accurate predicting can be.  Have any predictions you’d like to share?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

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