Forecasting and Wishful Thinking
December 5, 2017
Many company executives try to predict the future by constructing incredibly elaborate long-term business and career plans -which experience demonstrates- rarely materialize.
Several times we pretend to act if the future will be just an outcome of our projections, or even of our desires, where wishful thinking takes the lead. We tend to predict that our estimates –or dreams- would come true. Moreover, confirmation bias seems to pervade the corporate world: we stick to our beliefs by picking whatever facts support them and quickly dismiss contrary evidence. When confronted with the first signals that reality shows to us, we promptly accept bad news when it supports our beliefs, and reject the good news when it does not.
But what if we work on alternatives scenarios as a tool to help us be prepared to what the future will bring, instead of falling into the illusion that we can predict our future through our forecasts?
We spend too much energy trying to foretell the future, and too little trying to be resilient whatever happens. Rather than making forecasts, as business leaders, we could sketch out different scenarios –which will contradict each other- and afterwards, bring together groups of people with different perspectives to work through the details.
Because scenarios are compelling stories, they can help us face up to uncomfortable prospects and think clearly about possibilities we would rather ignore. And because scenarios contradict each other, they force us to acknowledge that, in the end, we cannot see into the future. As a result, we move from a sterile question to a fertile one — from “What will happen?” to “What will we do if it does?