C. Myblog

Are Your Predictions Limiting Your Strategic Thinking?

February 25, 2016

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.

— IBM president Thomas Watson, 1943.

Apple is already dead.

— Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, 1997.

Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition. It’s more Wal-Mart and Apple.

— Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes, 2008.

These Google guys, they want to be billionaires and rock stars and go to conferences and all that. Let us see if they still want to run the business in two to three years.

— Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, 2003.

Predictions are a tricky business.

Leaders assess how the world might or might not change. Whether it’s new non-traditional competition, cutting-edge technologies, evolving business models, or changing member behaviors, developing successful strategies today relies on decision-makers opening their minds to the possibilities and then choosing a path. Are you thinking creatively enough about how the world might change around you and how to ensure your credit union does not get left behind?

Consider the disruptions in financial services today. Like Blockbuster above, should strategy focus on behemoths like Wal-Mart and Apple, or are there greater threats in newer business models like M-Pesa, SoFi, and The Lending Club? Perhaps the greater threats and opportunities are evolving technologies. All of this is happening on top of traditional competition, regulation, and the economy.

Good strategy begins with careful consideration of possible threats and opportunities. Identifying the future you’re planning for is an important first step. With the future uncertain, even the best-laid plans are likely to run into unanticipated challenges. It can be useful, then, to ask, “What if the strategies we pursue are based on expectations that don’t come to pass?”

We recommend going through a process of test driving difficult and hard-to-imagine environments. Creating stories around such environments and discussing how the credit union could respond can be extremely valuable. Institutions are often amazed at the insight this can provide whether the environment actually occurs.

It’s not easy to foresee the future. We’ll leave you with some great historical examples, demonstrating that even the smartest people can misjudge the future.


The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.

— William Preece, British Post Office, 1876

This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.

— William Orton, President of Western Union, 1876

Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.

— Thomas Edison, 1889

The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.

— President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, 1903

Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?

— Harry M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Brothers, 1926

Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.

— Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.

— Albert Einstein, 1932

Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.

— Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946

If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.

— W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954

There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television or radio service inside the United States.

— T.A.M. Craven, Federal Communications Commission commissioner, 1961

With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market.

— Business Week, 1968

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.

— Ken Olsen, Chairman and Founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.

— Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, 1995

Two years from now, spam will be solved.

— Bill Gates, 2004

There’s just not that many videos I want to watch.

— Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder of YouTube expressing concerns about his company’s long term viability, 2005

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.

— Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, 2007

Although the turmoil in the subprime mortgage market has created severe financial problems for many individuals and families, the implications of these developments for the housing market as a whole are less clear. At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained. In particular, mortgages to prime borrowers and fixed-rate mortgages to all classes of borrowers continue to perform well, with low rates of delinquency.

— Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, 2007

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