By Andy Nulman, Play The Future CEO
I love this time of year because everybody seems to be obsessed with telling the future.
For one’s selves, people make “resolutions”…and we know how most of them end up come February (and we also know why my gym was so crowded last night).
But for the bigger picture, people make “predictions”…and most of them end up being as valid as their resolutions.
There’s a reason for that. And a cure. Keep reading.
The predilection for prognostication (now there’s a term!) is quite endearing; in fact, I’m currently building quite a business based on humans being hardwired to try and see tomorrow today. (It’s called Play The Future; learn more by clicking here.)
Ironically, said business was initially spawned back in the ‘80s at just about this time of year when I was doing a grocery order for my wife and six-week-old son at home. Waiting in the checkout line, I picked up the annual National Enquirer “Prediction Issue,” and was regaled by the foretelling of events like “Elvis To Reappear for Concert at Carnegie Hall” and “Alien Will Land on the White House Lawn” (perhaps they were really prescient with that one).
“Who ever checks up on these?” I thought to myself. “Is there a ‘Prediction Result Issue’?”
Well, there wasn’t, but perhaps the National Enquirer folks were onto something with their hallucinogenic moonshot thinking. Think about it–this time last year, if I were to tell you that Britain would leave the European Union, that reality TV “star” Donald Trump would be elected President, and that the stock market would embark on an extended rally upon the news…well, you would’ve have me locked up for treason, if not madness.
Yet here we are, living today what was unthinkable just a few months ago.
So therein lies the secret of better, perhaps I should even say “great,” predictions: go out on a limb, and then jump even higher to the one slightly out of reach above you. You may fall on your ass, but when you’re right, the win is, shall we say, Yuge.
The problem is in taking that leap. It’s easier to survey people and forecast on an average of their opinions…yet we all saw the results of that last year. Predicting by polling is now about as relevant as a Fax machine. I carry with a reminder of this on me every day; it’s pictured above, a sheet from a survey done by the (now defunct) Yankee Group.
In it, back in 2001, they polled consumers about willingness to pay for mobile data. The figure of “$20” got a wafer-thin less-than-1% support. The big winner was “nothing,” with a whopping 70%. It was this sheet, and these stats, which were used by nay-sayers to tell me why my business at the time–the two-year old Airborne Mobile–would fail. “Look at the survey; nobody will pay for mobile content,” they sneered.
Cut to today, where people WISH they could pay $20 per month for their mobile data, a commodity now as valuable as oxygen. More importantly, cut to 2005, when we sold Airborne Mobile to a Japanese company for well over $100 million. Thanks Yankee group!
The lesson here is don’t listen to what is, or what the aggregate think; dream what can’t possibly be…even if that dream has a bit of nightmare in it.
So when you make your 2017 predictions, take the path of the unrealistic, because as strange as it may look today, it’s the best path to tomorrow’s reality.