Rethinking the Ways We Forecast

David Orrell and Patrick McSharry  explain why we've seen huge breakdowns in our models when we try to forecast complex systems, such as the economy, the weather, and our genetic network, in a feature section in the upcoming Summer 2009 issue of Foresight.

Needed, they argue, are 1) new methodologies that explicitly address key features of complex systems, and 2) a shift of emphasis away from single-point forecasts and toward scenarios of possible futures. Commentaries from Roy Batchelor and from Paul Goodwin and Robert Fildes punch back, saying, in so many words, “Not so fast — the new tools haven’t proven themselves and may complexify without improving our forecasts.” It’s heady stuff, but gives us a glimpse into the future of forecasting.

Also in this issue of Foresight:

  • Roy Pearson shows where to find Free and Easy Access to Monthly Forecasts.
  • Jim Hoover shows How to Track Forecast Accuracy to Guide Forecast Process Improvement.
  • Analysts at Hewlett-Packard show how to combine time series, regression, and life-cycle models for Forecasting Demand for Spare Parts.
  • A new column on Sales and Operations Planning, which is perhaps the most significant innovation of this generation in promoting collaborative forecasting.
  • Peter Sephton’s book review of Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. “If we can better understand the role of randomness in bringing us to where we are now, we can possibly achieve better mastery over our future.”

Foresight, an official publication of the International Institute of Forecasters, seeks to advance the practice of forecasting by publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed articles, written in a concise, accessible style for forecasting analysts, managers, and students.  

For more information about Foresight, go to