Well, it’s that time again. 2019 will crash into 2020 right on schedule, and the Future Predictors will revel in their time in the spotlight. We’re not going to predict anything except that a lot of people will be predicting a lot of things. That said, how companies think about the future obviously influences their marketing efforts, resource allocations, and corporate positioning.
It’s really interesting to look back to assess anyone’s ability to see what’s coming. There are a ton of “what was predicted and what actually happened” articles. Some are hilarious, some are amazingly close, and some not at all close. Here’s an example list from an NBC News article from May 2011 (https://tinyurl.com/r22z6eh), authored by Mike Liebhold, a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future (which sounds like a really cool place to work):
Japan will build a robotic moon base
Cars will drive themselves
Getting there. Real progress
Biofuels will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels
The ‘flying car’ will be airborne
Call George Jettson, Owner of Jettson Jet Cars, Inc for 0% financing today
We’ll control devices via microchips implanted in our brains
I’m typing this with my mind, right now. Oh wait, those are my fingers
All new screens will be ultra-thin OLEDs
Commercial space will take us to the moon and asteroids (and we’ll be mining them)
Commercial space flight is getting there, but not commercialized…yet
A $1,000 computer will have the processing power of the human brain
$1K computers for sure…
Universal translation will be commonplace in mobile devices
We’ll finally see some decent AR glasses
We’ll create a synthetic brain that functions like the real deal
I’d love to retire my organic brain, just waiting for a synthetic brain donor
Predicting the future is risky business
Predicting the future is the context for many business decisions – forecasting, marketing spend, hiring and the like. The majority of these predictions are based on short-term information and goals, oftentimes based on imperfect information. Generally speaking, the long game is really relegated to large, cash-rich organizations that can afford to conduct expensive failed experiments.
Opining about the future is one thing, but integrated your ability to discern the future with business planning is another thing altogether. Hiring into the curve is a serious example of the implications of missing a prediction. Integrating your prediction-based actions and risk tolerance is as much art (intuition, experience) as science (market research, data). Forcast too conservatively, and you’ll miss growth opportunities. Missing aggressive predictions can have serious consequences for your employees and possibly the viability of your enterprise.
This is the time of year to predict the future of your business for 2020. Despite engaging in this risky behavior, as leaders of our organizations, we’re obliged to do so in order to grow, enter new markets and avoid costly mistakes.