Almost all important business decisions involve an element of prediction: Today’s adaptations, innovations, and changes of strategy all reflect educated guesses about what’s going to happen tomorrow. And of course, the more of your guesses prove correct, the more likely it is that you’ll thrive.
That’s the logic behind the annual Fortune Crystal Ball feature. (That, and the fact that journalists love being able to say, “I told you so.”) Toward the end of each year, the staff of Fortune crunches numbers, grills the experts, pursues some hunches and assembles its own prognostications about the year to come. We’re doing that right now in preparation for the 2017 Crystal Ball, which will appear in our Dec. 1, 2016 issue and will debut online the week of Nov. 14.
This year, we’ve added a new tool to our predictive toolkit: The “cognitive computing” of IBM Watson
. Watson uses enormous processing power, “deep learning,” and other tools to analyze vast stockpiles of data, helping researchers spot patterns and relationships that would take far longer to find without the technology. With the help of analytics firm OpenTopic, we’re using Watson to scour news publications, social media postings, patent filings, academic journals and scores of other sources to ferret out potential trends that could shape business headlines in 2017.
That’s where you come in. Below is a list of several forward-looking questions that OpenTopic and IBM Watson can help us explore. Click on the ones that seem most urgent and interesting to you: We’ll feature answers to the most popular questions in our write-ups when the Fortune Crystal ball goes live. Thanks for your help!
Check Fortune.com starting Nov. 14 to see our 2017 predictions.