Forecasting is Hard (But Let’s Do It Anyway)*

Not everyone has a crystal ball, but that doesn't mean they can't try. Courtesy lfb.org.

By Keith Blincoe, Staff Writer

Warning: Satire below.

At a recently convened panel event featuring industry experts, ASU/Thunderbird faculty members, and random people from the street, panelists were asked their opinions on future trends impacting global business. Every respondent was careful to note that projections into the future are notoriously inaccurate, and went on to confidently predict revolutionary changes within the next few years. Below is a sample of their responses:

  • Manufacturing: The 3d-printing revolution has only just begun. The next big wave is to 3d-print 3d-printers, heralding the age of 9d-printing.
  • Film: The unenforceability of intellectual property laws will lead to reduced box office returns, allowing lower budget films to flourish. This, coupled with the narcissism unleashed by the rise of selfies, will lead to selfie-movie hybrids called “selvies,” which will consist of people videoing themselves for two hours while sitting in movie theaters. On the positive side, it will no longer be a problem that people look at their phones in movie theaters, as that’s what everyone else will be doing too.
  • Health: Google will buy FitBit and gather your data at the molecular level, allowing it to send ads directly to your brain (“8 stimuli your neurons are craving right now—#5 will literally amaze you!”). And in an ominous turn, Google will amend its motto to “Don’t be too evil.”
  • Publishing: Shortening attention spans will eliminate the demand for books and long articles. By 2020 most writing will be in the form of Tweets and infographics.
  • Agriculture: The demand for organic, non-processed foods will become mainstream, causing many to avoid ever more forms of processing. For example, some people already avoid cooked food, and that will become even more common. Others will simply eschew chewing. But to some, the metabolic processing of nutrients and sunlight within plants is already too much processing; these people will eat soil, drink seawater, and bask in the sun. The most extreme will slurp elemental carbon and hydrogen directly through artisanal straws, made of straw.
  • Music/advertising: Growing intolerance for sitting through ads and shrinking willingness to pay for media will force companies to pay artists to mention brands in songs—in other words, product placement in music. This will extend from lyrical mentions to subliminal ad-jingle mixing. And look for brand names to take the place of rap artists in songs “featuring” someone.
  • China: China China China China China China China China. And maybe Africa.
  • Management: One panelist described a recent HBR paper by Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, Tom Peters, and the prolific ghost of Peter Drucker. It turns out we’ve been doing things wrong all along. Successful business is not about blue oceans, visioning, real options, ideation, synergy, people, quality, re-engineering, boundarylessness, leverage, teamwork, emotional intelligence, PEST, PESTE, PESTLE, prestidigitation, NPV, NSA, CSV, CSR, CRM, big data, real-time data, Lieutenant Commander Data, counting forces to five, visioning, thriving on chaos, failing fast, building to last, gooding to great, 360-degree sigma black belts, core competencies, matrix management, or agility. Those are all just fads. Long-lasting competitive advantage comes from Finding stuff out, Knowing what to do about it, and Doing it, or FKD. The authors are confident that this term has never been applied to the revolutionary idea that success is based on balancing present resources and future needs. The panelist continued, “It’s safe to say that thanks to this idea of trading off future and present consumption, now helpfully desimplified with innovative jargon, the entire world will soon be FKD.”
  • Software development: An app that makes apps will at last become feasible, leading at first to global appiness and then to appocalypse.

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