During the course of our jobs, many of us are called upon to forecast
trends, markets, or the outcome of a project or product. If you're like me, your
predictions aren't always on the money. In a recent issue of American Demographics, John Mahaffie of Coates & Jarratt, a Washington, D.C., research firm, cites some of the chief reasons for forecasting errors--
Failure to examine assumptions. Does the forecast rest on unlikely or unrealistic social, economic, or technological developments?
Limited expertise. Some people simply get too enthusiastic and overshoot their expertise when making a forecast.
Lack of imagination. Other forecasters suffer from just the opposite problem: They may fail to explore the more interesting possibilities for the future out of conservatism or timidness of thought.
Neglect of constraints. Many people fail to anticipate the roadblocks that occur within organizations, such as budget limitations or the opposition of others to an idea or project.
Excessive optimism. Those who view the world through rose-colored glasses don't give sufficient weight to "downside risk.' Result: Their forecasts are usually flawed.
Reliance on mechanical extrapolation. Don't assume that a particular trend or development, such as market penetration by a product, will continue to proceed at the same rate as in the past.
Premature closure. When developing forecasts, some people finish their work before all factors are considered. As a result, the more creative and far-reaching possibilities are never explored.
Overspecification. It's not possible to control all the variables and imponderables driving change, so no one can be utterly specific about most developments.
Mahaffie adds that those who develop products must guard against being too enthusiastic about a particular outcome, such as a new technology that they admire or own patents on. While enthusiasm is a necessary ingredient to get projects rolling, we need to add a dose of detachment to insure that our expectations are realistic.
According to a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the factors in the collapse of the original World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, was the reduction in the yield strength of the steel reinforcement as a result of the high temperatures of the fire and the loss of thermal insulation.
Robots are getting more agile and automation systems are becoming more complex. Yet the most impressive development in robotics and automation is increased intelligence. Machines in automation are increasingly able to analyze huge amounts of data. They are often able to see, speak, even imitate patterns of human thinking. Researchers at European Automation
call this deep learning.
The promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that devices, gadgets, and appliances we use every day will be able to communicate with one another. This potential is not limited to household items or smartphones, but also things we find in our yard and garden, as evidenced by a recent challenge from the element14 design community.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.