Book review: ‘Unchartered: How to map the future together’ by Margaret Heffernan, published by Simon & Schuster
The Weekend FT is strong on book reviews, generally well-written, some good, rarely bad, and never indifferent. Mercifully, they cover a lot more than fiction because, as my friend the Supreme Court judge says: ‘’when you have to read a lot for your work, fiction becomes less and less satisfying’’ – as is also my case.
Last weekend Tim Harford, economist, FT columnist, and content provider for the BBC reviewed a book; I rate him highly. When the book he’d chosen had as its title ‘Uncharted’ – well, guess who’s expecting a good read? Now, before you get too excited, it’s not about technical analysis. It’s a business management-style book but ‘’not a business book to skim in the business class lounge’, says the reviewer.
What struck me was how the underlying concepts Ms Heffernan covers traverse time, topics and trends. As Mr Harford says: the ‘book is less a smack-down of failed forecasts than an engaging ramble across our attempts to predict, control, explore or embrace an uncertain future’. This is exactly what we, technical analysts, are doing all the time. Gazing into the future, trying to make sense of situations, weighing up probabilities, working sometimes with alacrity and at others with fear. She agrees that forecasting is unnerving – and hard work.
Interestingly she adds that ‘’what matters most isn’t the predictions themselves but how we respond to them, and whether we respond to them at all. The forecast that stupefies isn’t helpful, but the one that provokes fresh thinking can be’’. She suggests that a better path might be that, when things go right or wrong and we don’t know why, we ‘’keep our eyes open. Stay engaged. Listen to others. Don’t be afraid to change course’’.
I round off with a phrase of hers which is especially appropriate this week: ‘’Don’t exchange business cards in a crisis’’.
Tags: forecasting, Received Wisdom, Unchartered
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