For a futurist this is always a giddy time of year as everyone, everywhere is issuing their predictions for the year (and sometimes bravely, the decade) ahead. But does it matter? Given some will come more true than others—we’re still waiting for flying cars, jet packs and meals in pills—how can we use predictions to guide our work?
As a strategist, I find predictions help us in three meaningful ways:
Better prioritizing resources. Predictions—from a variety of trusted resources—give us permission to double down in one area versus investing in another. For example, 20 years ago, we anticipated that gluten-free products were going to increase in demand—and they are now predicted grow into a $33B market by 2025. Nearly 15 years ago we believed that “fresh” and “local” were going to dominate store sales; enough said. What some read as fads, others see as big new opportunities to meet customer demand.
Making important course corrections. Five years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted that obesity levels would rise to 42% of all Americans by 2030. Unfortunately, we are at 40% now—way ahead of schedule. Given the significant societal and economic implications, these are predictions we really need to take seriously as we look at the products and campaigns we develop next year. Another challenging area to consider is income inequality. Yet another is increasing social epidemic of loneliness, particularly among Millennials. These are all areas that our work can (and I’d argue should) meaningfully address.
Making more confident decisions. Reading predictions helps strengthen our “informed intuition.” This is a wonky strategist way of saying that time spent wondering “what if” helps us develop more confidence in our ideas today. This is especially important with the rate of new information coming at us. We can’t know it all, but we can more confidently sense the most important shifts and consider those with the biggest potential implications. Looking at predictions allows our brains to scan for patterns and think more boldy about what’s to come. For as Mark Twain said so brilliantly, “You can’t trust your judgment if your imagination is out of focus.”
So eat up these predictions—and many more you come across. Reflect on how they make you feel. Are you relieved as you read these? Are you inspired, frustrated or potentially even fearful? These are all fair considerations—as the future is not simply good or bad. Looking around the corner allows us to actively champion, support, re-direct or even stop certain predictions from coming true. For in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “the best way to predict your future is to create it.”
And as for some of the more outrageous ideas, I predict someday we’ll place our finger on a machine each morning that scans our body chemistry and then “prints” a nutritionally perfect breakfast cereal just for us! Give it time. And it turns out that we may finally see a flying car (ok, passenger drone) this year after all!
Wishing you a bright, bold and very inspired new year.
Please play big!