It is an understatement to say that none of us knows the details of the future. But that doesn’t stop many pundits from making “expert” predictions. I recently researched some really bad predictions of past years. Here are 14 of them for now.
- “I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that.” (Edward J. Smith, captain of the RMS Titanic, 1912)
- “The actual building of roads devoted to cars is not for the near future, in spite of many rumors to that effect.” (Harpers Weekly, 1902)
- “With your voice, nobody is going to let you broadcast.” (CBS news producer and “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt to Barbara Walters, 1958)
- “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” (Ken Olson, co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977)
- “Nothing of importance happened today.” (King George III, to his diary, July 4, 1776)
- “There is no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” (Steve Ballimore, CEO of Microsoft, 1997)
- “The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse.’ There is no evidence that people want to use those things.” (John C. Dvorak, technology writer for the San Francisco Examiner, 1984)
- “Printed books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices, especially since printed books are often deficient in spelling and appearance.” (Johannes Trithemius, German abbot and scholar, 1492)
- “If Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is not by some means abridged, it will soon fall into disuse.” (Philip Hale, music critic (1854-1934), date unknown)
- “The worst is likely behind us.” (Henry Paulson, U. S. Treasury Secretary, on what would soon be called “the Great Recession,” 2008)
- “Few drugs will be swallowed or taken into the stomach unless needed for the direct treatment of the organ itself. Drugs needed by the lungs, for example will be applied directly to those organs through the skin and the flesh.” (Ladies Home Journal, 1900)
- “We expect within two or three years to have virtual parity with the NFL.” (Donald Trump, on the short-lived U. S. Football League. Trump owned the New Jersey Generals, 1983)
- “Tomorrow’s belle of the ball may spray her hair with a substance that attracts butterflies, and then release her own butterflies from a plastic bag so that they can hover around her head during the evening.” (Henry Still, Man: The Next 30 Years, 1968)
- “What could be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?” (The Quarterly Review, 1825)
Leaders can learn at least three lessons from these bad predictions. First, don’t keep your head buried in the sand (Yes there is a digital revolution that impacts all of us.). Second, be willing to make some bold assumptions even if you’re not always right. Third, keep a humble spirit. You will be wrong sometimes.
On a personal note, I really like number 13. I’m not sure why. I guess I have a weird sense of humor.