The Forecasting Fallacy

Alex Murrell:

Marketers are prone to a prediction.

You’ll find them in the annual tirade of trend decks. In the PowerPoint projections of self-proclaimed prophets. In the feeds of forecasters and futurists. They crop up on every conference stage. They make their mark on every marketing magazine. And they work their way into every white paper.

To understand the extent of our forecasting fascination, I analysed the websites of three management consultancies looking for predictions with time frames ranging from 2025 to 2050. Whilst one prediction may be published multiple times, the size of the numbers still shocked me. Deloitte’s site makes 6904 predictions. McKinsey & Company make 4296. And Boston Consulting Group, 3679.

In total, these three companies’ websites include just shy of 15,000 predictions stretching out over the next 30 years.

But it doesn’t stop there.

My analysis finished in the year 2050 not because the predictions came to an end but because my enthusiasm did.

Search the sites and you’ll find forecasts stretching all the way to the year 2100. We’re still finding our feet in this century but some, it seems, already understand the next.

I believe the vast majority of these to be not forecasts but fantasies. Snake oil dressed up as science. Fiction masquerading as fact.