No one can predict the future

Prediction is difficult - 
particularly when it involves the future.

– Mark Twain

When future scenarios are needed to future-proof an organization, people go to work to analyze what could happen in their market. They put together a team where different disciplines are represented. As a first warm-up session with such a carefully assembled team, I myself like to use the following question: 'Write down what the world will look like in 25 years....?'

When the post-its are shared after 15 minutes, the outcome is generally the same. Participants paint a picture of what the world will look like one to three years from now, not what the market will look like twenty-five years from now. Apparently, people can only build on what they currently know and see. Our imagination just doesn't stretch far enough; we can't imagine any disruptive inventions that will be made in the next few years. Just for fun read back old science fiction books from twenty-five years ago, the picture depicted in these books never match our current reality. Self-rising cars are described but no cell phones, for example. Or look at the weather forecasts; we can give an accurate weather forecast for the next few days but in four weeks this really won't work despite all the models and computing power available. 

Should you then stop drawing up future scenarios? Sure you should, but don't attach conclusions to them that are about a very long time period. They are just ideas to help with your marketing plans for the next year or the year after. When we use these scenarios for long-term strategic plans, we grossly overestimate ourselves. 

Ruud Olijve

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