I thought rather than participate in the farce that is year-beginning predictions, I’d instead create a user guide for making them.
First, you don’t have to be smart to make a lot of predictions that come true. Each prediction has a probability, and so it’s easiest for the ‘experts’ to concentrate on the ones with the highest probability. What are they?
1. That consumers will do more of a particular trend that they already did last year. This type statement is the staple; the stocking stuffers of the predictions game. People will watch video on the Internet. People will communicate with their friends (who would have thought!). Marketers will spend more on search. Consumers will use the Internet to buy things. Basically you can’t be wrong. Simple momentum will ensure that because of the time period (12 months) you wont be wrong.
2. Something in a perpetual state will be in that state over the coming year. Like, “things will be challenging”. This is a great one because let’s face it, what things in life aren’t challenging? You can adapt the trend to a particular industry, like “newspapers will face challenging times” or “print media will be challenged”. They will be in fact, challenged for the next 50 years. How can you not be wrong!
3. Standards will emerge is another great bet. Or if X industry is a little more developed, then “X industry will become increasingly commoditized” is along similar lines. This is like saying “12 months from now, we’ll be a year into it”! Bingo!
4. Industries/behavior will become more fragmented. As soon as something becomes popular, then huge amounts of companies sprout up in niche versions of that something. So this is an easy one. Industry too mature? Consolidation happening? Doesn’t matter, if that is happening then the market will become more general and smaller companies will want to attach that same label to their industry.
So what not to do? The key is to be general as possible. If possible, don’t pick companies and don’t pick product announcements or mergers and acquisitions. It’s easier to pick what won’t happen there then it will to pick what will happen. Why? You are depending on a single person (the CEO or corp dev person) making a decision in a certain time period. It’s better to predict something that many people can do, that way you are guaranteed some of them (even if a miniscule amount of them) do it and you can be right. Happy predicting!