Lessons on how to plan for the unpredictable

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

Forgive us if step into the dark side for a moment (alas, not everything can be about babies, Bieber and Tebow).

There have been 3 horrible train accidents in July alone: the derailments in northwestern Spain and Lac-Mégantic, Quebec and now the train crash in Switzerland earlier this week. And it’s got us thinking: is there a pattern here, do things really happen in 3s? What about patterns in these wild weather stories including the storms that caused major flooding in Alberta and some flooding in Toronto. Or are these truly random events? Conspiracy theorists would say there is a pattern, that it’s all part of a grand master plan, that someone / something is controlling what’s going on. And there’s comfort in believing one can predict based on data (now that there have been 3, is it safer to get on a train now?).

But we say sh*t happens. Sometimes there isn’t a pattern and events are just random. We say don’t look for a pattern if a pattern isn’t there. As researchers, marketers and analysts we are trained to look for patterns in numbers, in behaviour, but sometimes there just isn’t one. The unpredictable happens.

So the lesson is simply this, control the controllable, and plan for the unpredictable. You can’t always “blame it on the rain”.

(*this is in no way meant to undermine these horrific accidents or the deaths caused by them…you should know us by now)