People have an insatiable and primal preoccupation with predictions about the future. This fascination with predictions is part of human nature and might even be one of the reasons you were curious about this blog post.
A 1984 Gallup Poll found that 55% of American teenagers believe that astrology works. Astrology columns appear in over 1200 newspapers in the US; but fewer than 10 newspapers feature columns on astronomy. Why?
In religion, seers of the future are prophets; in leadership they are visionaries. In tribal Africa they are witchdoctors and in first world business they are economists. Their common denominator is that they all predict the future and all are nearly always wrong. Yet they command ardent followings despite their appalling track-record. Why?
We usually only hear about the tiny percentage of individuals who successfully predicted the future or created a vision that materialized. Try going back and reading blogs from this time last year or the year before that predicted trends or events for the year and see how few of them were accurate in retrospect. Yet this month, as many people as last year will no doubt voraciously devour predictions of the future. Why?
Tim Harford, author and Financial Times columnist, raises some of these questions in his excellent piece, An Insatiable Desire to Peer into the Future, in which he says:
The wonderful thing about forecasts is that they all sound very profound. ... Saying "the UK economy will recover strongly in 2012" or "President Assad will be out of office by June" compresses a vast amount of expertise and analysis into a few words.
If you remove the timeline from these same statements they are not imbued with nearly as much gravitas. Statements like, "The UK economy will soon recover strongly" or "President Assad will be out of office sometime in the future" don't carry the same weight they do when they include a timeframe. It is the defined time parameter that lends an air of profundity to what would otherwise be nothing more than an uninteresting personal opinion.
The reason for this transformation of subjective opinion to authoritative prediction by adding a time-frame is that without a one the author of the comment assumes no accountability for its accuracy. At no point could you accuse him or her of being wrong. Accountability adds authority to a statement; a comment without accountability is mere gossip. Consider an article written in a reputable journal by a named expert compared to an opinion expressed in an anonymous Tweet or blog. We trust the expert because she has put her reputation on the line and stands behind her assertions.
Light gossip versus serious commitment affects the way we talk to ourselves, not only the way we talk to others. When we promise ourselves that we will do something without attaching a timeline to the commitment, it isn't a commitment at all because there is always time in the future to deliver on it. It is only when we commit -- whether to ourselves or to others -- with a time limit for delivery attached, that we become personally accountable for our undertakings and, our subconscious minds hearing the seriousness of the commitment, support it.
At this time of year when we make resolutions to live better lives in the future than we managed to in the past, it is particularly important to avoid vague promises and, rather, to be specific about measurement and time-frame. This will raise the chances of success.
So, always include a deadline in your thoughts and words and move important items from your To Do List to a specific time on your calendar. Doing this converts frivolous intentions into leadership statements.
And now, as for my predictions of the five highs and lows for 2013, I don't have any. I cannot put my name to a definite time-line, so anything I would say would be light gossip rather than expert opinion. But if you really must have predictions, I'll share some of the ones floating around the blogosphere. The lows I quote are anonymous gossip and the highs are authoritative, well-considered, expert opinions:
Lows: (Anonymous gossip)
Highs: (Expert Opinion by Vivek Wadhwa published in the Washington Post)
- The credit rating of the U.S. government will be downgraded again in 2013.
- The economic depressions in Greece and Spain will get even worse and unemployment in the Eurozone will go even higher in 2013.
- The percentage of working age Americans with a job will fall below 58 percent by the end of the year.
- At least one "too big to fail" bank will fail in the United States by the end of 2013.
- Food prices will soar in 2013. This will especially be true for meat products.
Let's meet again this time next year to review our predictions and make new ones for 2014!
- Manufacturing jobs continue to return to the U.S.
- Big opportunities in mining big data reservoirs
- The computer keyboard and mouse will become obsolete
- Many new types of affordable medical devices that help us monitor our health will be affordably available
- The entry price of tablet computers will drop to under $100