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Forecast or Fry

09 May 2011

Forecasting can help us to protect our families better, says John Bittleston

We all forecast, if only to decide whether to take an umbrella with us to lunch but it has been made more difficult by the speed of change, the demand for short-term targets and the perceived difficulty of planning.

When we cannot forecast, we guess with reasonable success if we follow nine creative rules of alertness, observation, sensitivity, reflection, humour, vision, foresight, problem solving and memory.

Forecasting the next few years involves analysing social networks and Internet programmes. It requires a view about the 1.7 billion people the planet cannot support. It means studying how energy sources will change and guessing future climate changes.

This column permits only the examination of the future of energy.

The Japan tragedy will subside but there will remain doubts about building nuclear plants on tectonic plate faults in the earth. Efforts to develop alternative energy will increase and we shall see an energy breakthrough within the next twenty years. This may be storage (battery technology) or movement (sending electricity over long distances wirelessly) or extra-terrestrial (sourcing energy from space).

It may be ways of triggering powerful energy locally or a new nuclear technology that promises much greater safety. It seems inconceivable that a planet so blessed with energy would fail to harness it.

An energy breakthrough is more important than all medical, social, political and economic advances put together. Plentiful energy will solve population, consumption, longevity and sustainability problems – at a price – but mankind has always channelled resources into survival of the race.

A short-term increase in energy costs will worsen the problems the planet faces today. More people will starve and die of thirst creating ‘poverty revolutions’.

Social networks will grow and promote more ‘freedom revolutions’, possibly at a risk to democracy itself, bringing higher expectations which we cannot satisfy. Freedom by itself does not mean wealth or comfort.

Virtual mobility will partly replace physical travel and educate us in cross-cultural understanding. Cheaper energy will eventually redress this trend.

Climatic disasters will proliferate and, until the energy breakthrough, the available power will be unable to cope with them. There will eventually be increased resources to alleviate climate devastation. Lose your home to floods once and you call for a mop; lose it twice and you call for a mob.

What can we do to protect our families?

Earning money will become increasingly precarious. Job-hopping is a potential disaster.

No loyalty to an employer leads to no loyalty to society.

So stay with the job or income source you have now for as long as you reasonably can. Job change is threatening to the body and mind as well as to the resume; a record with your employer or customers does not guarantee a job for life but it makes it more expensive to fire you.

Rule Two: produce a basic plan and sleep at night. Planners succeed more than those waiting for something to turn up. Your financial plan must cover lifestyle aspirations and preparation for a long old age. 80 per cent of people who seek career and life advice have no idea how to prepare a plan. Learn or lose out.

The Chairman of a big multinational corporation told me recently that he thought communication skills were worsening. Rule Three: make sure you communicate effectively, especially by listening. This skill has been badly neglected.

There are more steps you can take to prepare for the economic tsunami that is soon to break. My views on those are at the Insider’s Take section.

Forecasting is not about gambling, it is about prudence.


John Bittleston helps people with their careers , businesses and personal lives at Terrific Mentors International. His career spans marketing, advertising, public relations, international management, book writing, and mentoring.

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