Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Predicting" Gets a Bad Rap

I love your statement: “Prediction is doomed to failure. The value of futures thinking is in opening minds to consider new possibilities and to deal with change. They should not be seen as visions of where an organization might go.” - Siemens, 2010

Gonick (2010) argues that the future of education will include the following: open, global, lifelong, and informal learning.  This is a prediction in that they are outcomes that are assumed to transpire in the future.  Whether they happen or not, this information is based on a sound argument in my point of view.  Intuitively, I think most would agree that whether these outcomes happen or not, we will adapt to whatever the result.  It's possible to include a level of creativity and scenario-based discussions around these predictions that help provide context.  

At a more basic level, each time I communicate with others, I am predicting.  I am predicting that my message will be communicated.  I am predicting that my audience will understand my meaning.  I am predicting that my audience will react in a certain way, etc.  They can be either sound or weak, but nonetheless are still predictions. 

Predictions are gimmicks... - Levine (2010)

Just because it's a prediction doesn't automatically equate it as being unsound or weak.  The argument behind the prediction (i.e., stating a single outcome could happen) or forecast (i.e., stating a variety of outcomes could happen) frames the level of certainty.  I could forecast an outcome by saying, "Under this situation, this could happen, or this could happen, or this could happen, etc.  One could argue that this level of uncertainty is what is needed in forecasting - not predicting - the future, but it could also lead to such ambiguity that the usefulness of the statement could be in question.   

I agree that we need to be open, creative, and willing to adapt to situations as they happen.  But I think we can form arguments that lead to a single outcome or a variety of outcomes that both take into consideration the right amount of certainty and uncertainty to adequately support an argument.