New Year business predictions – why we should treat them with caution


The slow train to nowhere?


Has your in-box suffered an influx of New Year predictions? Mine has. Some of the subjects are predictable of course:

  • How will the economy fare?
  • What trends will we see in the property market?
  • Where will technology go? By which they mean computers and gadgets.

Now of course we can make quite long term predictions in a vague sort of way and all credit to John Elfreth Watkins for imagining in 1900 many of the sorts of things that are part of our lives today. But of course dreaming about how the future might be is quite different from predicting how we might get there or knowing the technology that might be involved. Mr Watkins did pretty well; no doubt about that. It is the chain of events to get there that is impossible to know.

Railroads and sun roofs

Advance planning involves making predictions of course. Hence the newly revived high speed train link (HST) between London and Birmingham and ultimately beyond is a breathtaking gamble on an anticipated future. I am not part of the campaign to save the Chilterns from a blight although I know some of the countryside and see the opponents’ point. What I see is a huge amount of money being spent on a future world which may never happen.

What will be the demand for a quicker rail service in 2026 or 2033 when it reaches Leeds and Manchester? They are even projecting to 2043 in terms of “benefit”, demand and fares. That is over thirty years in the future. Thirty years ago those of us who were here had a Britain with a coal mining industry (maybe we shouldn’t have had), had not predicted the Falklands War although it was only a month or so away, had no mobile (cell) telephones, and had not started the fashion of carving holes in our car roofs so that we had a “sun roof”. The internet as it is today or was fifteen years ago did not exist except as an internal network.

Visiting Auntie Doris

So I could make some predictions about the future of the high speed rail system. Of course people will still want to see family in person even if they can video conference them, even though we might be transmitting and sharing the atmosphere and smell of another place by then. Will rail leisure travellers need to get there quicker?

I think the high speed aspect will not be needed because frankly people don’t need to travel so much for business unless they are hands-on engineers or architects etc. Most of us don’t need to commute except that somehow the cultural shift hasn’t happened yet to recognise that fact. But that shift will come within much less than thirty years. That’s my prediction.

Of course I may be wrong and have stuck my neck out. However, I am not sticking it out nearly as much as the HST planners.

A sticky wicket

Five years ago few predicted the credit crunch. Two years ago we expected there would be a recovery in the economy by the beginning of 2012, but we didn’t anticipate the Euro crisis. So never mind the predictions re investments, property prices and the like.

We must rely on our business experience, work at our marketing and change if it isn’t working. We must ask our peers for help. We must play according to the current conditions as a good cricketer batting must adapt to the wicket and the deliveries bowled. It is no good thinking about making a century when you have made a few runs in a damp atmosphere.

I think we have to accept business is difficult now and use all our skills together with all the help we can get to deliver a better service than our competitors. Therein will lie our reward. Defend when we have to and attack when the time is right.

How is your batting form?

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