March 25, 2013

A really, really, REALLY long-term scenario

Patrick Marren
Partner

Lawrence Krauss says we know more about where the universe came from right now than beings in the far-distant future possibly could. Read more

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February 08, 2013

De Rerum Mutandorum

Patrick Marren
Partner

 

Institutions change faster and more completely than we think. An example from some recent reading: Harvard University.Read more

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October 25, 2012

Nate Silver and Data-Recency Bias

Patrick Marren
Partner

One more thought provoked by Nate Silver's thought-provoking The Signal and the Noise.

It's about the seductiveness of data and cool, overly precise models.

(In comparison, say, to scenario-based planning? Sorry, the scenario consultants in us always rear their ugly, pragmatic, self-promoting heads. We gotta work on that.)

Silver brought back to the surface an idea I (and others, such as Nasim Nicholas Taleb) have had before, but especially since the financial crash of 2008: accelerating advances in technology and data-gathering create a new sort of bias that...Read more

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October 19, 2012

Why Scenario-Based Planning Beats Prediction

Patrick Marren
Partner

Scenario consultants have an advantage over single-point forecasters like Nate Silver: we're not restricted to single point forecasts. 

Don't get us wrong: Nate Silver is as good as it gets when it comes to single-point forecasts, and as honest about their limitations.  But that undeniable fact just further dramatizes how dangerous point forecasting can be.

Just to illustrate, let's take the current ongoing presidential hoo-hah. 

Silver's Five Thirty Eight blog, as of this morning, had President Obama's odds of winning the presidency at 70.4%. This is up from 61.1% a...Read more

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October 12, 2012

Foxy Hedgehogs: "The Signal and the Noise"

Patrick Marren
Partner

Nate Silver's book The Signal and the Noise makes a darned good case for scenario-based strategic planning. 

In it, he raises the old distinction between "hedgehogs" and "foxes," from a fragment by the ancient Greek philosopher Archilochus via Isaiah Berlin: "The fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

"Foxes" in this dichotomy are nonideological and open thinkers not wedded to any one theory; they are comfortable with "nuance, uncertainty, complexity, and dissenting opinion."

"Hedgehogs," by contrast, are "Type A personalities who...Read more

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August 07, 2012

My Team's Okay, Your Team's Evil

Patrick Marren
Partner

Jonathan Haidt thinks we're weird. And as scenario consultants, we have to agree.

Actually, he thinks we're WEIRD - as in, "Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic." Or at least you live in a country that by world standards corresponds to such adjectives. And if you live in such a country, you may fall into the trap of believing that all moral questions ultimately can be resolved through rationality. That is wrong, according to him.

His new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good...Read more

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July 09, 2012

Frank Newman's Six Myths - #6: If the U.S. does not get its fiscal deficit reduced soon, U.S. Treasuries will face the same problems as bonds of Greece and Ireland

Charles Perrottet
Partner

Today we examine the sixth and final “myth” from Frank Newman’s book Six Myths That Are Holding Back America – the worry that U.S. Treasuries could come to have the same problems of lack of demand due to fear that it will not repay the bonds coupled with escalating interest rates.  As with all the myths, Mr Newman attempts to present the mechanisms that drive international finance.  The policy implications are rich and varied and the subject of legitimate debate.  Scenario planning can and should be used to evaluate alternatives.

U.S. Treasuries are widely regarded as the...Read more

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July 02, 2012

Frank Newman's Six Myths - #5: Deficits create great burdens of repayment and taxes for our children

Charles Perrottet
Partner

Today we examine the fifth “myth” from Frank Newman’s book Six Myths That Are Holding Back America – that the national debt will be a crippling load for our children and grandchildren to repay.

These days it seems that we get a constant stream of articles proclaiming that we are bankrupting our children and grandchildren through the massive national debt that we are compiling.  While the numbers are very large, the argument that it is a burden to our offspring implicitly compares the national budget to a family budget.  This is intuitively appealing, but misses...Read more

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June 29, 2012

Frank Newman's Six Myths - #4: If the deficit is reduced, then national saving and investment will increase

Charles Perrottet
Partner

Today we examine the fourth “myth” from Frank Newman’s book Six Myths That Are Holding Back America – the presumption that increased saving will drive increased investment.

By definition, the government will reduce the deficit when it spends less than it receives.  Everything that the government receives comes from the private sector (either from taxes or the sale of Treasuries) and everything that it spends eventually finds its way back to the private sector.  If the government collects more than it spends it creates “Government Savings”.   On the other side of the...Read more

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June 27, 2012

Scenario Planning Economic Insights: Frank Newman's "Six Myths" Reviewed

Peter Kennedy
Managing Principal

FSG's Charles Perrottet has initiated a series of FSG Outlook blog entries discussing Frank Newman's recent book Six Myths That Hold Back America.  Six Myths is an extremely useful read for scenario planning purposes, as it poses alternative interpretations of critical economic and financial issues, which the author feels are widely misunderstood in the popular press.  Newman is a former bank CEO who served in senior Treasury Department roles before becoming...Read more

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