Why predictions are dangerous and organizations must be well networked


AFR_Boss_Dec13_300wToday’s BOSS magazine in the Australian Financial Review includes a feature on my work.

The article focuses on my thoughts on the value of predictions. I’ve written before about why predictions usually have negative value, as an important way of framing how we think about the future.

I am quoted in the article:

“A prediction can have negative value, by misleading people, by taking away all the uncertainties and the possibilities,” he says.

The article describes how when I worked in the financial markets I saw analysts doing extensive research and then generating currency, interest rate, and equity market forecasts.

“What that did was collapse all the richness of thinking and give people on number. Once they’ve got one number they can believe it, in which case it’s likely to be wrong, or they believe it’s not true, in which case it’s useless.”

As often, I note that the role of the futurist, rather than making predictions, is to help people think effective about the future to act better in the present.

“Executives, government, leaders, everyone is overwhelmed by how much technology and society is changing. [Even] I am overwhelmed. But overwhelmed is dysfunctional, so what I am trying to do is help.”

The article goes on to give my life history in brief, including the books I have written that have shaped my career, and describes how I often use scenario planning with major organizations engaging with the future.

After describing some of my perspectives on social trends and uncertainties and economic structure, the piece goes on to look at how I see organizations today.

“As we are more able to collaborate, establish reputation and work effectively with people anywhere, it does ask the question, why does the organisation exist… rather than a whole lot of individuals collaborating? says Dawson.

There is real value to having an organisation, but only if the organisation is richly networked and that there is indeed a community.”

Organisations can take advantage of their workforce by “tapping the spare creativity, ingenuity and insights of people outside their existing roles. If an organisation is not well networked, it is a set of individuals, it doesn’t really have a good reason to exist. yet if it is well networked this means that the most relevant expertise can be applied to the challenges that arise.”