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No One Predicts


It’s no secret that today’s world is awash with experts. Simple Google searches will reveal no shortage of people who will tell you how to run your business, your life and things you didn’t even know you had.

This is especially true in our current Covid-world. Logic says that at least some of the advice and recommendations must be good: masks, sanitizers, PPEs, social distancing and blah, blah, blah.

You can believe what you want to believe but our guess is that most of these sources have some sort of data or science behind them. The real problem arises when people try to predict the future. And in this case, we’re talking about business.

Again, a simple Google search listed 50 million listings for “Post CoronaVirus Economy predictions.” If you could average reviewing 100 listings per hour, you would need 20,833 hours, or 868 days, or 2.4 years to wade through it all. Phew! Thanks Google.

A cursory scan showed that all the usual suspects weighed in: nytimes.com, Reuters, BBC, NPR, et.al. as well as specialists like the Brookings Institute. Then there were people who are entirely focused on business matters: Fortune, marketwatch.com, Forbes, et.al.

Some pundits are saying that this downturn is exceeding the “Great Recession” of 2008 and some are proclaiming it to be the most severe slump since (and maybe even surpassing) the Great Depression of the 1930s. It may be too early for even the most outspoken pundit to definitively put a label on it. That may be because the jury is still out as to how deep the decline will eventually be and how long it will last.

What is fascinating is the plethora of predictions for the post-Corona world. What is intriguing is that many are relating to the anticipated rebound by letters. They are saying that the “shape of the recovery” will resemble a “U” curve, a “V” curve, a “W” curve, or an “L” curve. Some are likening it to the Nike swoosh. (And, yes, we realize that not all of those letters are “curves.”)

Interestingly, in the Brookings piece there were graphs depicting the various “curves.” While all of the charts featured a “time” axis, there were no quantifiers on any of those axes.

Let’s not stop there. What will the workplace look like after we’ve turned the corner? How many people will be permanently working from home? What will that do to companies’ overhead as it relates to their needs for space, for office furniture, for office supplies, for office equipment? How will that impact their bottom lines?

How will that impact rush hours? Oil consumption? Pollution? The need for public transit? The inventory of parking spaces? What about business travel and the restaurants that depend on the lunch crowd? What will that mean for brick-and-mortar retail vs online purchasing? And on, and on, and on…

As with so much surrounding the Covid phenomenon, who do you believe? One thing is certain: Ask 100 different people (or experts), get 100 different answers. Some say it may take the economy two years to recover. Some say things will never be the same again.

Who do you believe? The answer is simple: no one. Despite the credentials and passion of those (well intentioned) experts making those predictions, don’t kid yourself. No one knows what is going to happen. All those predictions are nothing more than opinions and speculation. Some may rise to the level of educated guesses, but they’re still grounded in uncertainty.

Even public companies whose lifeblood depends on working closely with Wall Street advisors in projecting their revenues and profits are backing down. According to Marker, many public companies have withdrawn from projections altogether. One analysts noted, “We have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen; your guess is as good as ours.”

There is only one thing that you can take to the bank (assuming that there will still be banks to go to): No one knows what is going to happen. No one.

And no one will know for quite some time. Oh sure, when the dust finally settles, we’ll be able to look back and say that so-and-so got this right. Or, Mr. X got that right. Or, Ms. Z was spot on about (whatever).

But in the final analysis, the likelihood that someone will “nail it” is about as likely as – today – someone picking the exact teams and the precise final score of next year’s Super Bowl. No bookmaker in Las Vegas can do that.

Assuming that there is a Super Bowl next year.



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