By Dean Whittaker

Where does the future come from? How can we predict what will happen next? Does history repeat itself? My quest to predict future began with a question. Why are there cycles in things? We see cycles all around us – repeating patterns of events such as the seasons, daylight/darkness, birth/death, corporate life cycles, etc.  By knowing the pattern of reoccurring events – knowing the code – we can predict what comes next.

Science is about the accumulation of knowledge to enable us to understand the world around us and to be able to predict the outcome of our actions or inactions.  One of the most interesting futurists I have heard speak is Juan Enriquez: “Life is Imperfectly Transmitted Code”.  In this YouTube presentation, he describes how our ability to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next using language (code) has impacted our present and our future. His book, “As the Future Catches You,” describes what we can expect from our further understanding of the genetic code and the field of Life Science.

For much of my adult life I have wondered about the future.  Recently, I was excited to be asked to give a presentation as part of the Economic Development Institute on “Predictive Analytics: How to See Around Corners.”  In preparation, I have given a lot of thought about how we go about predicting what is to come – where does the future come from, and why should we care?  Our future comes from our past and present.  The action or inaction (events) that takes in the moment determines, to a great extent, the future.  How will the events taking place today shape the future? 

Much of my interest in the future has been focused on predicting corporate behavior using business intelligence.  Looking for the pattern in events that would give a clue as to what a corporation might do next. For example, there is a strong correlation between the change in leadership and the relocation of a corporate headquarters. Changes in sales and employment are correlated with a real estate requirement.

Companies at risk of relocating can be predicted based upon key events. Leadership changes, product life cycle, investment in R&D and new technology, trends in market share, change in sales, and percentage of international sales, merger and acquisitions activity, industry trends, competitor actions, and changes in the business environment are all factors that we can gather through business intelligence to be used in a predictive model to assess risk of closure or layoff.

As with any prediction, such as the weather, it is a probability.  While not absolute (only death and taxes are), predicting the future provides us the opportunity to prepare for it, shape it to a degree, and influence its direction.  So, dust off your crystal ball, get out the Ouija board, and pay attention to the cyclical pattern of events happening around you. Your future awaits you.