Tuesday, December 06, 2016

How Good is Your Mind at Predicting?

My friend, Peter Rogers, who lives in the UK was wrong at predicting Brexit, but right at predicting Donald Trump would win.  How did he get one wrong and the other right?  Read about his experiences here.

Guest Blogger - Peter Rogers
Peter Rogers Predicted Donald Trump

I always thought I was particularly good at prediction as a result of me working as a technologist most of my life, but my world was turned upside down after Brexit. It took a long time for me to work out why I got Brexit so wrong, but eventually I brushed myself off and started to read a lot of material on Super-Forecasters.

It learned I had been misleading myself for many years.  I thought I was good at non-technical decision-making. I recall looking at the Ladbrokes Swingometer for Brexit and being so sure of a "remain" vote, that I was going to place a large bet.  I was however, wrong. I made the classic mistake of polluting the decision-maker-mindset.

In order to forecast accurately I needed to consider a wide range of diverse opinions without being overly drawn to any one particular source. This of course, is where social media makes fools of us all. We are typically drawn to a small group of close friends for inspiration, and these friends typically share our opinions.  People rarely fact check on social media. We also read newspapers, which have an increasingly political bias, and a high percentage of us fail to fact check.

I decided if I was going to truly escape from newspapers and social media bias, then I was going to have to train myself to be able to forecast independently. As a first step, I built a website that enabled me to place forecasts and to track whether I was right or wrong. I added a scoring system so there was feedback for my predictions.  This was important as most people don't keep track of their predictions and the results.

Every day I made forecasts on politics, sports, weather, finances, entertainment, and just about anything else I could think of.  I thought anybody can make correct guesses in their own field of expertise, but how many people can make correct predictions outside of it?  Even that prediction was wrong!  In fact, it turns out that Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are bad forecasters in their own field!

I learned there are two parts to being a good forecaster:

  1. A good gut feel
  2. Being able to show your "thought process."  Show how you worked through an "Outside Model" that is refined by an "Inside Model." 
I started out remarkably bad at forecasting. I soon learned to differentiate between the things I wasn’t so sure of, and mark these at a lesser percentage, from those that I was quite sure about, which I would place at a higher percentage. I also began regularly adjusting my prediction when new evidence became available. It actually started to feel a lot like betting, because I used a simple gamification hook with an avatar who gets weaker or stronger depending on my average score.

The bottom line, after 50 bets, I was actually able to predict with 95% accuracy that Donald Trump would be the next President many months before the actual election.

My goal now is to help other people improve their predictive powers as I did. The system still needs a lot of work.  Today it helps people improve their gut instinct, which is an improvement as I went from 25% accuracy to to 75% in just three months of time.  My plan now is to roll the system out to the general public as a beta.  You can register by simply emailing peterzrogers@hotmail.com, and I will send you the website address and a secure login token.

I am also very interested in talking to people who would like to take the system forward because I strongly believe that digital systems to enhance forecasting are in demand.

Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Center for the Future of Work, Cognizant Writer, Speaker and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.