This is Howard C. Park's blog. Interests: live music, simulations and modeling, languages, iPod, social and business networking, systems thinking, history of science, management, BBQ, trivia, good coffee, organizational learning, traveling, personal histories.
I am often asked by clients, colleagues (and even family), "can your models really predict the future?".
It's enticing to think that it's possible to know, with absolute certainty, how the future will play out--in a business dealing, in world politics, in your stock portfolio, tommorow's game, or tonight's dinner. If we're "smart", and we make our models "smart", couldn't we use it to tell us what will happen? In fact, the early days of computing was marked by an attempt to better predict (and perhaps control!) weather. We know today that our weather reports can be wrong.
"We're not in the buisness the predicting the future. Instead our models help you prepare and, if you're bold enough, help you shape your future." is the sort of reponse I give. In fact, we find that in many organizations there are varying ideas of what the future is and why it's important. Even when confronted with lots of data (and perhaps because there is too much data) it's difficult to put it all together into a coherent viewpoint.
Sometimes its best to think about the range of possible futures to see what's possible. Think of the three ghosts who visit Scrooge--there is but one future (if we ignore the parallel universe argument), but I'll show you what COULD happen. Why is this important? Becuase it causes Scrooge to change behavior NOW. Dickens ends the story here without fast-forwarding to the actual future. He doesn't have to. We the readers "get it".