Power of Predictability? Don’t Try to Predict the Future, Create It: Choice– Do Lunch or Be Lunch, Eat or Be Eaten…

The deep need to predict and shape the future drives most of human behavior and especially business organizations… Predictability is to know in advance the degree to which a situation, course of action, behavior, event… is likely to happen on the basis of observation, experience, scientific reason…

According to Howard Stevenson and Jeffrey Cruikshank; long before the dawn of history, our ancestors lived in an environment of high risk and uncertainty, for example; rustling in the brush could announce the approach of a covey of game birds or a saber-toothed tiger… Hence, swift and accurate prediction of the nature and significance of the threat and the taking of appropriate action were the keys to survival: In other words, kill the game bird, and elude the tiger– eat or get eaten

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In today’s fiercely competitive business environment, mastery of these survival skills is essential. The realistic prediction of threats and opportunities and taking of deliberate action are critical competencies, i.e., move to kill, or flee, but don’t just stand there. The problem facing companies today is that there are too many fishermen and not enough fish in the market. It’s a matter of– ‘eat lunch or be lunch’, or as stated by Gregory Rawlins; if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re a part of the road…

The ‘do lunch or be lunch’ in this context means a fight for business survival and it brings about the concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’… the term ‘eat lunch or be lunch’ originated from the eco-system, where in a food chain it’s either you hunt down animals to eat, or you will be hunted down by animals to be eaten…

Similarly, a metaphor for fish says: If they need to catch a fish to eat and there only 5 fishes in the pond and 10 fishermen then five will go hungry (i.e., fish = customers)… Survival of the fittest means that you’re either going to be the predator (do lunch) or prey (be lunch): There is not anything ‘neutral’ or ‘in between’ about it.

According to Miroslay Tibernaus; today’s leaders must create the future, versus simply trying to predict it: They must, 1) unlock their potential through empowerment, 2)  move away from linear thinking, 3) experiment, experiment… Change is inevitable and one can either effect a desired change yourself, or be subject to the results of someone else’s change. In other words, be a leader, rather than a follower; proactive rather than reactive… Abe Lincoln said; the best way to predict your future is to create it.

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In the article Do You Try To Predict The Future? by Paul Lemberg writes: Can you predict the future of your industry? Can you predict the future of your business? No one can say with certainty what will happen next week much less in one year, five years… Yogi Berra reportedly said; it’s hard to make predictions and especially about the future… Most people will agree that predicting the future is problematic, and yet all businesses try to predict the future, all of the time. In fact, there are three basic business tools which require predictions:

  • Future Revenues: At the most primitive level businesses predict future revenues. For better or worse estimated future revenues govern many of your proposed business decisions. These estimated figures are often wrong but you nonetheless establish spending patterns for years to come based upon this guesswork…
  • Industry Scenarios: One level up from revenue predictions is the prediction of industry scenarios in which you try to guess what are competitors are likely to do in the future…
  • Strategic Planning: The most complex level of predictions takes place in strategic planning. Most high-performing businesses set annual and long-term objectives and develop plans to meet those objectives. Resource planning, financial planning, market planning, sales planning and project planning all depend upon how well businesses predict the future in their strategic plans…

One of the problems with predictions is that the business end up developing ‘planned reactions’ to guessed-about future events, instead of creating their own plans. A second problem is that business usually measure the success of these ‘planned reactions’ based upon whether or not they produce the predicted results. But, now here’s the rub: All the estimates of future revenue, industry scenario, strategic plan are based on assumptions and predictions that are most likely wrong…

Hence, instead of being reactive by following everyone else, become proactive by creating your own future, and move the direction of the business by ‘inventing your own future’, such that– it’s ‘faster than speed of change’… A boldly conceived, declared future direction will energize everyone in the organization. And, by inventing the future you will alter the competitive landscape– and completely change the game… The future is really whatever you say it’s going to be: The odds are that your prediction of the future will probably be wrong, and probably more right if you invent your own future…

In the book Power of Predictability in Creating Your Future by Howard Stevenson writes: Prediction is active, not passive: Taking effective action means playing to your strengths. It means picking, practicing, specializing, and playing your own game. Part of this is knowing the overall odds for and against breaking into the game you’re interested in… Historically, most successful leaders deal effectively with the future…

However, the obverse visage of predictability is avoidance, for example; confronted by a saber-toothed tiger, our ancestors who survived, fled… The rational business leader will avoid insofar as possible situations that are inherently unpredictable. The professional gambler is not a risk-taker; he/she understands the odds and only acts in those situations where the odds assure a clearly favorable outcome…

Avoidance of unpredictability applies to relationships as well as situations. In a society where mutual cooperation is critical for simple functioning, it’s important to be as unsurprising as possible… In modern-day tribe, security is found in the predictability of your colleagues, suppliers, customers and employees — even your competitors. Similarly, to achieve effective collaboration and strategic execution, all of your stakeholders look to you for predictability. In fact, leaders and organizations enhance their effectiveness by being more predictable, and they have a special obligation to act honestly, humanely, effectively and that, most often, translates into acting predictably…

However, according to Tim Dickson; predictability, if you think about it, is largely a pejorative sort of word. Call someone predictable and what you are really saying is that person is a touch boring. Almost by definition, a predictable sporting contest lacks the excitement that makes it worth watching… Whereas, the growing unpredictability of the economic, social and political environment is what makes it fun and separates the winners and losers… and it provides opportunities for leaders to exceed expectations…

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In the article Best Way To Predict The Future Is To Create It by Paul Brown writes: To deal with uncertainty today, you need a different approach… The old way, which still works in extremely predictable situations is based on the assumption that the future is going to be pretty much like the past. Think demographics, experts can calculate with a high degree of confidence, the world population in 2050, because they know, for example: How many people are alive today– about 7 billion… They know how people are distributed by age, i.e., teenagers, twenties, thirties, over sixty-five… they know when most people decide to have kids…

Studying data like this you can, as the United Nations often does, say with a degree of certainty that in the year 2050, there will be about 9 billion people on the planet (i.e., ignoring the possibility of a pandemic)… And you can also make a number of fairly accurate estimates, such as; how many diapers will have to be produced, or how many gallons of water those 9 billion people will drink each day, or how much U. S. will need to pay out in Social Security benefits at the midpoint of this century…

All this information is terrific: But for an organization not everything can be foreseen, and therefore predictable, for example: Is the world ready for your company’s brand-new, never-before-seen product or service? There are places where predictions are very questionable… Here’s the central point: How you traditionally learned to reason is extremely limited in predicting what will happen in your business. You need a different approach, for example: In the face of the unknown, leaders must act by: 1) figure out what they want, 2) take a small step toward making it reality, 3) think about what they learned from taking that step, 3) build that learning into their next step… in other words: Act. Learn. Build. Repeat…

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Predicting the future is really difficult… According to Broc Edwards; if  your actions make sense today, then you are probably not pushing hard or far enough… you must use your imagination to explore the unimaginable– opportunities, trends, desires, needs… then apply all available expertise to make them possible…

The future is scary when you trying to predict it and don’t have any control, but the future is very exciting when you are creating it. According to Carol Wickett; everyone would like to accurately predict the future, and especially the business future; however, the only way to do that is to ‘create it’ yourself.