The more we learn about the world, the more we understand that experts are not nearly as ‘expert’ as they like to think they are.

"The experts failed to foresee the slowdown of the early 2000s, failed to anticipate the housing bubble, failed to predict that economic growth would remain weak after it burst and failed to implement policies to return us to our postwar norm,” Jay Cost wrote in the Wall Street Journal in October 2015.

No real news there. Experts are being found to be woefully bad at predicting the future, and not even very good at managing the present. And yet our societies have never given more financial rewards to experts.

In the lead up to the 2007 crash, the global rating agencies gave their highest AAA ratings to subprime mortgages. A subprime mortgage is where people who can’t afford a mortgage are given one at an exorbitant, truly exploitative interest rate. It’s what loan sharks do. The ratings agencies supported and encouraged these practices.

“To a certain extent, investors have ignored Moody's and other ratings agencies. In almost half the instances, yields on government bonds fall when a rating action by S&P and Moody's suggests they should climb, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on 314 upgrades, downgrades and outlook changes going back as far as the 1970s.” In 2012, Moody’s predicted that the Irish housing market would decline by another 20 percent. In fact, it has risen by 20 percent since then.

There is a legion of experts who with absolute certainty have foretold that the Euro would collapse in 2012, 2013 or 2014. And Greece has by now long left the Euro, according to the experts, along with Spain, and who knows who else.

These experts, particularly in the financial and business sectors, have never been paid such outrageous salaries and bonuses in order to be consistently, incredibly and fabulously wrong.

Learning Opportunities

Big Data is coming and it will shed a harsh light on these experts. What we are learning is that modern management has become much more about flexibility and adaptability rather than predictability and strategy.

The concepts of lean design and minimally viable product are not simply product design tools. They are part of a philosophy that will design new organizations. These new organizations will be much more collaborative and will use collective intelligence and the wisdom of crowds far more than the wisdom of chiefs and experts. That’s because networks are more adaptable, flexible and knowledgeable than individuals, and we live in the greatest network of all time.

Big data is the wisdom of crowds. Never before have we had so much data on the actions and decisions of so many people. No ‘star’ sets trends today. Rather, we look for trends that are in the data, and move with those trends until they change suddenly — as they most certainly will — and then we rapidly adapt.

There is no genius out there who knows it all and can lead us through the turbulence if only we give them our trust and make them fabulously rich. The future will be made or broken by the collective, by us.

Of course, that’s a prediction.

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