John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist, once remarked that the only benefit of economic forecasting was to make astrology respectable.
As executives pour over the multitude of forecasts for the coming year and beyond from respected economists, stock market analysts, debt rating agencies, business commentators and the like, in a bid to anticipate the immediate future, the highly respected Economist magazine offers a few alternatives:
For years they have been publishing a Mac index. This is a price comparison of a typical McDonalds hamburger across countries to assess different inflation dynamics and purchasing power parities.
They also carried out research at the beginning of the year by soliciting economic forecasts from respected business sources and London binmen. The latter did allright by the way!
The Economist also published an article about what thieves and robbers are likely to steal nowadays. No longer are CDs and DVDs top of the pile. In fashion are smartphones, PCs and jewellery. Thieves may sometimes be drug addicts but they still understand the economics of value and wealth creation.
There is a serious point to these (not so) frivolous examples. Knowledge in organisations can often come from very unlikely sources. We constantly encourage our clients to seek contributions from as many varied sources as possible, both from within and outside the organisation.
The Board and executive teams do not have a monopoly on knowledge about the environment in which an organisation operates. To behave in that way is both limiting and dangerous.