I watched a TV story tonight about the new Holden Commodore - and how Holden might have got their timing badly wrong. In today's climate of increasing petrol prices, it's hard to see why anyone would spend a lot of money to buy a big car in the first place, without then having to spend a lot of money paying for petrol to make it move. One commentator, a journalist at a major newspaper, was commenting that the decision to develop the new Commodore was made in 1999, and the design locked in during 2003 when the price of oil was really low. And he then said: "And who in their right mind would have predicted that the price of oil would triple in three years?"
As if this was a self-evident truth. Ah, I said...if you were using futures approaches, you might have asked a 'what if' question - what if the price of oil triples in three years? What impact would that have on our gas guzzling Commodore? Shell did this in the 1960s when they asked what if questions about "what might happen if the price of oil fell" - they had a plan when this did happen, while other oil companies were left floundering.
The only reason someone didn't ask the Commodore what if question in 2003 was that they were immersed in conventional business processes, and didn't think to question the assumptions underpinning their decisions. If they had, they might have gone back to CSIRO and done some more work on the ECommodore that they experimented with a few years earlier, and we might just have the first hybrid Commodore released this year instead of one that risks becoming a white elephant.