Predicting the future

The thing about predictions is that they are easy to make because very rarely are you held to account. If you have ever been asked to contribute to one of those books or articles that gather together a group of people every year to make predictions about your industry, then you know this to be true. No one ever comes back to ask you if you were right. At best your predictions act as thought provokers for the reader or listener. They are not intended to guide business decisions.

Being a futurologist is something else entirely though. Here your value rises over time the more right you have proven to be. And that’s the challenge. You need to follow people over a period of time to know whether something they have said in the past has come true in order to value what they are saying today. The value of these predictions rises even higher when they appeared to be out of sync with everyone else or against prevailing wisdom at the time they were made. Even then you still need to evaluate if the person making the predictions has got things consistently right or if they just got lucky once or twice.

My last blog post talked about the Age of the Consumer being upon us. New digital tools are moving the power in the relationship between brand and consumer into that consumer’s hands. The ability to price check, read reviews and recommendations, interact on social media etc on a mobile device means that consumers have much greater control of the relationship and that brands would have to engage in different ways.

I used the words “privacy, permission and preference”.

I first heard the argument that these would become essential around 8 years ago from Jonathan MacDonald @jmacdonald at an event I chaired. It was backed up by thinking from Tomi Ahonen @tomiahonen on his blog “communities dominate brands” and further enhanced listening to Gerd Leanhard @gleanhard talking about mobile and social combining together to bring about the ‘end of lying’.

The point is that I now pay much greater attention to what these three and others say today because I am aware that over the next 10 years much of what they are talking about will come true. Most of us are fixated on completing the current project, winning the next deal or completing this quarters numbers. But we have to take time to think ahead. Way beyond the immediate. Our companies and careers depend upon it.

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