Future Here Now: You Can't Pick the Winners
This week’s Future Here Now will focus on something we don’t want to admit — the fact that in a VUCA environment, our ability to predict winners goes out the window. That’s true, to some extent, on topics ranging from weather to football, but it’s especially true when the “winners” we’re trying to pick are technologies, or businesses, or entrepreneurs. We consistently over-estimate our knowledge, and under-estimate the unknowns.
That’s a problem for lots of people, but it’s especially a problem for those of us whose make decisions about the economic future of our communities — economic development incentives, zoning, real estate, etc. We place big bets on long odds, and far too often, our bets turn out to be misplaced.
This week I’m going to throw out my usual Signals format and focus on one single book that I sincerely believe that every person who touches public policy should read (that includes voters, so you don’t get off the hook!)
In 2021, Lawrence Tabak published a book that threw a surgery-level spotlight onto the most mundane economic development practices in Foxconned. This University of Chicago Press book presents an incredibly detailed, exhaustively researched, airtight postmortem of the Foxconn economic debacle that ultimately played a central role in unseating then-Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. It’s also incredibly clear and well written, which makes it even more bewildering to me that so few of my colleagues appear to have read it.