Fear of the Unknown…

2016 seems to be the year of the outsider. The year of the underdog.

As a recruiter, I’ve learnt over the years that there is great value in the unexpected. The candidate who gets the job is never the closest match to the job spec – it’s always the one who looks a slightly interesting alternative on paper, and then wows and convinces everyone face-to-face.

Hmm, that sounds an oddly familiar story to a certain President-elect.…

The election of Donald Trump is the flashing neon-lit headline act for 2016’s tales of the unexpected – but of course there have been a number of support acts; Leicester City winning the Premier League, the UK voting for Brexit, Portugal winning Euro 2016 and the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series were among them.

One of the key takeaways from all this is the validity of polling organisations, bookies and ‘expert’ forecasters. They got all of the above wrong – some spectacularly so!  You can even go back to 2015 when none of the UK pollsters told us a clear Conservative majority was on the cards.

Leicester City were famously a 5,000/1 bet at the start of the season and every ‘poll of polls’ suggested a narrow but clear Hillary Clinton victory. When I went to bed the night before, Trump was a 9-1 outside bet.

Their power and relevance has always stemmed from the fact that they mostly got everything right – but do the failures above show them to be redundant now?  Is there still a place for this type of forecasting? The old methods of working out the numbers seem to be outdated.

We’ve always taken comfort in the predictable. We’re content when we know roughly which players will reach the semis of a grand slam or which teams will be fighting for the Champions League. This is heightened even more so in politics. Political predictability keeps our faith in the very stability of our institutions and systems.

Oh well, maybe we should give thanks to Usain Bolt, Kim Jong-Un, Mo Farah and Vladimir Putin who – for better or worse – have proved that 2016 has also seen some very predictable continuity.


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