How to make a better prediction

Humans constantly fail to see the significance of our own creations. It makes us really bad at predicting what is going to happen next. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” – Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883.

“Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.” – Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, commenting on Edison’s light bulb, 1880.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles Duell, U. S. Patent Office Commissioner Charles Duell, 1899.

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty–a fad.” – The President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” – Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” – W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954.

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” – Ken Olsen, Co-founder of the Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977.

“There is no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” – Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, 2017.

The only way we can get better at predicting what is going to happen next is to write it down.

“I predict that this video will go viral.”
“I predict that at this price this product will boom.”
“I predict that this person will get the next promotion.”

There is no disputing the facts once we write something down. You have to stand behind your best guess. But once we see why our predictions are right or wrong, we can learn to make better ones in the future.

You still won’t always be right but you can learn to see better than the rest of us.

[We can’t see what is around the corner without first exploring the edges.]