The Forecast Myth

I’ve always associated the term “forecast” with the weather. Coming from the Midwest, I am culturally inclined to a near obsession with the weather. Few places have unchangeable weather, and living someplace where a tornado, a blizzard, a scorching heat wave or some other short or long term event can come slamming down on top of you makes you a bit skeptical of anyone’s ability to tell the future.  Granted, in the area of meteorology, science is improving, but sometimes it pays to just step outside for minute and look at the sky.

Business forecasts are even trickier. Aside from the historical data and numerous theories about how things are supposed to work, I’ve looked with jaundiced eye upon any report laying out the next quarter, year or election cycle with any real certainty. There are too many variables, most of which are unknown, and the complexity of the interplay of uncontrollables is mind-numbing.

I recently read an article in the Economist that spoke to the difficulty of forecasting the Internet’s impact on business.  The writer cites a few examples of how the Internet was supposed to change everything:
So, I hesitate to forecast business specifics. Nonetheless, when presented with an identified need or gap in an audience’s experience or when enough people and businesses express frustration or bewilderment with something they already have to deal with, or with something they are missing, I see enough of a path to helping them that I become much more optimistic about next steps.

So it’s not so much a forecast as a desire to help and do good. While there may well be “unintended consequences”, following those desires forecasts a better end.

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