By Adam Gordon
In today’s volatile economic times, being able to predict with some confidence where the forces of change will take a business in an industry can be a distinct advantage. Many forecasts are being made and most are predicting bad times in 2009. But being overly cynical and dismissing negative forecasts or becoming completely reliant on negative predictions is also risky. The theme of Adam Gordon’s Future Savvy is to maintain balance by assessing predictions from a variety of different viewpoints.
The author distinguishes good and bad forecasts by questioning the consensus before buying into it. Poor forecasts assume that current dominant perceptions, needs, wants, concerns, and aspirations will still be dominant in the future. Based on his experiences, Gordon presents a long list of important questions that managers should be prepared to ask themselves in order to identify on which forecasts they should rely to run their businesses. He encourages readers to look for those that stretch current thinking or break through “the official view of the future.” Stretch thinking considers both change drivers behind the predicted movements as well as blocking forces that cause delays and can even stop change from occurring.
Future Savvy thoroughly examines forecasts based on new technologies, such as clean-air, high-mileage vehicles. Regarding such vehicles, Gordon argues that a good prediction will address whether demand will be sustained when gasoline and oil prices go down. He makes the case that there should be a balance between technology pull and market push.
A partial list of the reasons why a prediction could be wrong include the following: numbers used are not solid, key statistical caveats are not acknowledged, missing cases are not accounted for, data is improperly used, media bias creeps in, assumptions are not questioned, change is identified when none exists, and foresight experts have interpretive biases. There is even the chance that a forecast may fail to recognize that some problems, coined “wicked problems,” have no solutions. Analyses of current crises and failed predictions, as evidenced in the housing and agricultural commodities markets, should be of special interest to managers.
Gordon provides a practical set of points to consider when assessing forecasts and predictions. In the end, managers should be able to determine if they are future optimists or future pessimists. Unlike flipping a coin both are acceptable, balanced responses.