Everyone wants to know what the future for them will be. It’s why fortune tellers with crystal balls and astrology forecasts have been so popular.
Lennon Got It Right
John Lennon of the Beatles came closest to predicting the future when he said “Life is what happens while you’re making plans.” I experienced this just recently. I had planned out my talk for the 69th annual New Jersey Broadcasters Association convention and gala in Atlantic City when while on route I received word that my mother-in-law aka “Mom” was taking her last breaths. The two days I had planned were now dedicated to a wake and funeral.
What is planning but trying to predict the future, trying to create a future you want and manipulating events to try and ensure the future comes out the way you want. At best, planning is shaky; at worst, a big waste of time.
No One Can Predict the Future
Soon every radio company will call their senior managers together for the start of the budget season. Budgeting is the way companies try to predict the future. Only they can’t. Never have. Never will. At best, budgeting is roadmap to where a company would desire to end up when the New Year is over. The Baby Boom (of which I’m a card carrying member) was supposed to create massive unemployment. It didn’t. Even with another unforeseen event – women in the workforce – the labor force in America grew by forty percent while number of jobs grew by fifty percent.
Radio Is Dead
In my working life in radio, I have watched the prognosticators tell me almost every year that the newest shiny thing that had come along would be the end of radio. Like the 8-track tape player, then the cassette player, then the CB Radio (not 10-4, good buddy), then the CD player followed by the CD changer, then the car phone, the MP-3 player, the smartphone, followed by satellite radio and finally streaming audio. So what’s the latest report say about the use of radio by Americans today? It’s the most ubiquitous form of mediated communications on the planet today.
Radio is the leading reach platform: 93% of us listen to AM/FM radio over the airwaves, which is higher than TV viewership (85%), PC use (50%), smartphone use (74%), and tablet use (29%).
Predicting the Future Should Be Dead
VCRs didn’t kill movies. Television didn’t kill books. The internet didn’t kill direct mail (aka junk mail). If you study fractals, what you learn is that they grew out of chaos theory and that theory is based on the unpredictability and randomness of everything. This reminds me of something Paul Harvey used to say when the world confounded him, no use worrying about anything because nothing will turn out alright.
Here’s How to Plan
Planning has always been a singular path in the companies I’ve worked. The problem is people. People are unpredictable. Radio, TV and mediated communications are people businesses. Planning should be a process that includes several possibilities. I always called it “a Plan B, C, D etc.” In other words, you need plans, not a plan. You need to build unforeseen possibilities into your planning process.
Albert Einstein put it this way:
“The universe is not only queerer than we suppose.
It’s queerer than we can suppose.”