I witnessed a scene approaching the surreal in a recent yearend convention. The executive started his speech for the collaborators with the following message: “Conforming we estimate, we finished the year overdraft”. And he kept going with usual explanations citing the economical crisis, market retraction and so on. The participants nodded, in agreement with their boss’ justifications. In the same week, in another company’s meeting, I witnessed a different spectacle with a reversed script. The company’s president said something like: “Conforming we estimate, we are finishing a difficult year with exceptional results”.
He then started to discourse about taken courses of action. Showed a graphic with the market share growth and, as a good leader, he credited the success to the whole group, who celebrated with enthusiasm. Despite of having opposite contents, both speeches have a common item: they begun announcing the confirmation of prediction.
It is hard to know until what point the results – bad for one company and good for another – were simply confirming the predictions and until what point the results were influenced by such predictions. Predictions can and must be done. Prepared executives can imagine the future, based on past events. This practice is called forecast – predictions based on data. The most experienced executives can also count on their personal impressions to envisage future results. To this intuition of the most lived ones we call foresight – predictions based on feelings.
Nevertheless a savant already said the best way to predict the future is to create it, and there is, on this proposal, not even a drop of unfounded optimism or cheap self-help. The American sociologist Robert Merton, Ph.D. in Harvard, dedicated his live to studying the organizational behaviour, observing situations similar to the ones described in beginning of this text, also concluded the same. He is the author of the expression “self-fulfilling prophecy”, which explains the influence of future vision over the happenings this future will provide. However, to be realistic without stop being positive is the better advise. Practice it!
Translation: Melissa Mussak ([email protected])