Forecasting the future is never easy. Regardless of the information we have, there are many other factors which can impact the accuracy of our view of what our world will be like five, ten and twenty years down the road. A healthy amount of imagination or vision is also needed.
In many large organizations, as with individuals, thoughtful visioning endeavouring to take into account what may change in the coming years from today and the past is sadly lacking in planning for the future. The simple extension of the past information will ensure poor results.
Two glaring examples in the public sector are in the fields of education and health care.
An assumption that the demand for post-secondary training in colleges, trade schools and universities will decline as the number of primary to high school students’ declines assures failure. While it may seem logical, the simple math may take us to the wrong conclusion.
Trying to estimate the demand by the number of students in the system at the present time is only one indicator. Some other questions need to be asked.
How many of those students will move on to post-secondary education? Will they move on to university, college or trades? Of those who move on to post-secondary training, what fields will they select?
As the world develops, there will be a need for training in new fields. How many of those in the system today are likely to return to a post-secondary institution either to upgrade or take another path?
There are many questions that need to be answered as best we can before we can forecast future demand for post-secondary education. Some of the information will simply be a knowledgeable guess so institutions will need to be flexible in how they are structured and equipped.
In the health field we are reminded that the healthcare system will collapse in the future because of the demands and needs of seniors who are extending their lifespan. That prediction is based on the assumptions that the future will be the same as the past. Forecasters who use a simplistic method to predict future needs will be very wrong.
There are numerous differences in seniors from even a couple of decades ago.
In the main they are better educated and pay attention, at least to some degree, to living a healthy and more vigorous life in their later years. Even the federal government has recognized this when they raised the pensionable age from 65 to 67 years old. There are more people in their seventies leading full and productive work lives than ever before.
Better diagnostics and better interventions keep all of us healthier for more years than our parents and grandparents could expect. We have more sixty-five plus individuals out there working and they are all paying taxes!
The future is likely to see a battle against obesity brought about by poor food and a lack of knowledge on what is good and balanced nutrition. The number of people falling into poor health by lack of attention to their dietary consumption will become socially unacceptable. Increased positive interventions will identify irresponsible or negative practices and will have a large impact on the health care system.
Five decades ago, smoking was common and if you had suggested at that point of time that it would become socially unacceptable, they would have laughed at you. The impact of the decline of smokers has saved the health care system billions.
If we are going to see the future, we have to replace the emphasis on the past with some thoughtful visioning of what the future may be.