Ten business predictions that were proven to be well and truly wrong

With the year coming to an end, SME owners and managers will be looking at projected sales figures for the next 12 months, considering new product launches and trying to predict how their markets will look – for better or for worse – in 2016.

Forecasting and forward planning might be essential but gazing into a crystal ball is always risky as even the most successful and prominent business person can discover.

The moral of the story? Make predictions, yes, be sceptical, certainly, but always keep an open mind, especially where technology is concerned.

Most of all, though, don’t underestimate the importance of someone who has an idea and the determination and energy to make it reality.

1. “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home”

This was said by Ken Olson, then the president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), 1977. He later clarified his prediction by saying that he wasn’t suggesting every aspect of people’s lives would be controlled by computers. Looks like he was wrong on that too.

2. “There will never be a bigger plane built”

This was said by a Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people. For reference the Airbus 380, the largest passenger plane built to date, can carry 544 passengers – as well as offering the possibility of bars, beauty salons, duty-free shops and restaurants.

3. “The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most”

IBM said this to the to the eventual founders of Xerox in 1959. Their product became a by-word for photocopying. Today, with revenues of nearly $20bn in 2014, Xerox employs over 130,000 people in 180 countries.

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

Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office made this claim in 1878. In fact, having had more phones per head of population than any other country in the world for decades, fixed lines in the US fell from 46 to 40 per 100 people between 2011 and 2014, mainly thanks to the growth of mobile phones.

5. “With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself”

This was published in Businessweek on 2 August 1968. Car production by Japanese automotive brands in the US hit a record 3.6m in 2013, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association’s US office, up ten per cent from 2012.

Continue reading on the next page for the final five remarks that proved to be less than accurate, including one from Alan Sugar.

Image: Shutterstock

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