On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

The worst 'expert' flubs

Most critical is for the leader to realize that experts don't have a perfect track record. Far from it. If you're not already skeptical of expert opinion, glance over these doozies:

-Lord Kelvin, the president of Great Britain's Royal Society, confidently predicted in 1895 that "heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

-Yale University expert economist Irving Fisher proclaimed in 1929 that "stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

-IBM Chairman Thomas Watson predicted in 1958, ''I think there is a world market for about five computers." Or Kenneth Olson, founder of Digital Equipment, in 1977: "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home." And even the remarkable Bill Gates, who said that "640K [ of memory] ought to be enough for anyone."

-My favorite, from my long-accumulated list of expert belly flops, is from that expert of experts, Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office Charles Duell, who announced to the nation in 1899 that "everything that can be invented has been invented."

By Ken Adelman

 |  September 29, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Category:  Making mistakes Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Deciding in a state of ignorance | Next: Fearful leaders


Please report offensive comments below.

That Ken Adelman chose these erroneous forecasts as the "worst" is telling. In none of examples cited did anyone lose their lives, nor propel the country into war.

How about these instead:

Cubans would rise up in a popular uprising is we landed some exiles on a beach in Southern Cuba. Exiles were landed, uprising didn't happen. Remember the Bay of Pigs?

Saddam's Iraq was bristling with weapons of mass destruction, including a well established nuclear weapons program threatening the United States.
Guess what, none found, no nuclear program.
You count the dead Ken.

How about the notion that a lot of dirt could be found a the national political headquarters of one of the major political parties. We should break in and secure the re-election of our candidate. Remember Watergate?

I could go on, but I think you get the point!

Posted by: wildcat1 | September 29, 2010 4:02 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Post a Comment

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company