Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Predicting the future is hard; ask a psychic

In the July-August Harvard Business Review, Paul Saffo explains in his article "Six Rules for Effective Forecasting" (free link) that "prediction is possible only in a world in which events are preordained and no amount of action in the present can influence future outcomes." He goes on to write, "Above all, a forecaster's task is to map uncertainty, for in the world where our actions in the present influence the future, uncertainty is opportunity."

This belief was reinforced in a recent news item from my local business newspaper, the Central Penn Business Journal:

...Business owners between 200-212 N. Second Street in Harrisburg will have to pack up if city officials approve plans for an 18-story office, parking and retail building at that location.

Four businesses would be affected: Cobalt Hair Salon, 2nd Street Psychic, Chilly Willy's ice cream parlor and the Tom Sawyer Diner....

Psychic Angie Tom, who owns 2nd Street Psychic, was in Europe and could not be reached. A psychic who works for Tom said she did not see this coming and could not say what Tom would do in the future.

If psychics can get caught off guard, then we must live in a world rife with uncertainty.