The value of predictions

At seminars and trade shows that I have attended over the last few months, I`ve noticed that a staple of these events is a talk that predicts developments in the telecommunications industry over the next decade. These talks started me thinking about predictions. Why are they so popular?

Mar 1st, 1996

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

Executive Editor

arlynp@pennwell.com

At seminars and trade shows that I have attended over the last few months, I`ve noticed that a staple of these events is a talk that predicts developments in the telecommunications industry over the next decade. These talks started me thinking about predictions. Why are they so popular?

I believe one reason we like to hear predictions is that they`re fun. They`re a kind of gambling, which is generally seen as entertainment--unless you lose.

But predictions are more than entertainment. Being able to predict the future gives us a sense of control. It`s comforting to think we`re progressing from today to tomorrow--or to next year--smoothly and under our own guidance.

And if it`s personally comforting to be able to predict the future, think how much more important it is to have this control as a businessperson. To give one example, Jon Wiese, a vice president at AT&T, gave last fall`s BICSI keynote address. He made a dozen or so predictions about what was in store for the telecommunications industry in the year 2000--even though he was unwilling to venture a guess as to what the name of the new AT&T spinoff company was going to be.

Market-research firms certainly recognize the value of predictions. Their customers pay sums in the four and even five figures for estimates of where the marketplace is headed over the next decade. I`ve often wondered, does anyone ever take these market studies and compare their predictions against the real trends and patterns that later emerge?

Although most of us consider predictions a valuable form of information for the running of our businesses, the irony is that the more information is generated, the less able we are to separate the nuggets from the noise.

This leads me to a prediction of my own--over the next decade, businesses in the telecommunications industry will be so overwhelmed with information that they will begin to hire information managers or management companies to sort the whole confusing scene out for them and keep track of what`s really important.

It is in response to this trend that Cabling Installation & Maintenance has branched out over the past year, launching a buyer`s guide, newsletter, video training series and, this coming fall, a trade show in partnership with BICSI. We`re tossing around other ideas here in the office, but we`d like to hear from you. What information needs do you have that we can address, or address better?

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