Why predictions fail
“Don’t confuse precision with accuracy. I can be wrong to 5 decimal places…” Dr Tim O’Neil
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The image above is a great demonstration of how rubbish we are at predictions, particularly when they involve innovations. As part of their annual survey, Gartner asked CIOs which technology company has been most influential over the last 10 years? And which will be in the next 10 years?
First of all, there isn’t much context to go on from this slide. Influential to the organisation or in general? Internally or externally? Enterprise, consumer or both? You would have to assume both given the prominence of Apple alongside more traditional enterprise players like SAP yet no sign of Facebook.
Talking of Apple. Imagine if the same question had been asked in 1997, the year Apple was verging on bankruptcy and Michael Dell recommended shutting it down. Ten years later and Apple was on its second wind, but only in the world of digital music. The iPhone had not yet been announced and the iPad still three years away. What would CIOs have predicted then? I’m betting Apple would still have barely registered. Today, more than two-thirds of Apple’s revenue is from products released since 2007 and now they are considered the most influential company over the past 10 years. And everyone thinks they’re done on the innovation front. That’s humans for you. We’re great at hindsight.
The correct answer would be ‘I don’t know’. ‘Others’ is the closest option on the slide. It may come from a company that does not yet exist. But it is just as likely to come from an established player. IBM has been doing rather well establishing enterprise social tools in large corporates (the Lotus brand is in danger of finding its second wind) and leading externally with the ‘Smarter Cities’ initiative. Amazon has just announced the ability to host virtual desktops on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Microsoft will have a new CEO in the next 12 months. Who knows what the technology landscape is going to look like in 10 years time. One thing’s for sure, there’s a storm already brewing between enterprise and consumer worlds. Would you say IT doesn’t matter? 😉
p.s. I’ll stick in my 2ps worth. I’m surprised Salesforce and LinkedIn didn’t register on the slide… presumably they’re in the ‘Others’ bucket.