Thomas Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times and three times Pulitzer Prize winning author.
His (successful) forecasts and in-depth analysis, on foreign policies and international relations often bring him to the forefront.
The other one, named Thomas Falak, Is a retiree from US Department of Agriculture, with a master's degree and his favorite hobby, is to sit for hours, out in the nature and observe birds.
Which of the two would you choose, to anticipate the moves you should do, in order to achieve a higher professional and personal level?
Obviously this dilemma will not keep you busy for over 3 seconds. Its good to think again, as the second one, may not have the reputation of the former, but took part, along with about 20,000 other people, in a recent scientific project funded by the US government.
He managed to see his name featured in 2% of participants with the highest success rates in the forecast area, even if he had to compete with strong names of the species. How, then, an amateur is able to perform better, than professional analysts of the intelligence services?
Can we do it too?
How you are thinking, is much more important than what you are thinking!
These were, just two of the hundreds of questions, that for long, preoccupied Philip Tetlock, psychology researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. Then, after, 20 years of studying, experts of prediction globally and been part of the Good Judgment Project (System of good judgment), mentioned above, he reached several conclusions, which are reflected in the brand new book:
“Super forecasting: The Art and science of prediction”.
One of the main conclusions was, that specialists, most often have worse performance in terms of predictions from a housewife and that DNA, luck and intelligence, are hardly involved in all this.
Everyone can improve prediction capabilities, as long as, you learn some tricks and invest in five key things:
•Collection of information from many different sources,
•Non rationale arbitrary but based on probabilities (and the experience),
•Acceptance of error, and
•Desire for change.
Most interesting is that Tetlock and his partner in writing the book, journalist Dan Gardner do not seek to make us an expert in predicting the course of the our economy in the first half of '17 or the presence of water on other planets beyond Mars…
Their purpose is to teach us to "the art of prediction“, that we can treat it with a clear mind and temper what is coming and make our future lesser uncertain.
Indeed, in all matters that concern us: from the simplest to the most complex.
Not to feel that all this is science fiction scenarios, its enough to think that among the top scorers of Good Judgment Project are included, except mathematicians and engineers H / PC, Pharmacist, a Pilates teacher and a hockey coach. Simple, everyday people, like us who are not known for their knowledge in statistics, but have some other features:
They are careful, curious, open-minded, stubborn and stricter judges of themselves.
The ten commandments plus one:
Let us not forget that prediction is a true art (if not science). The two authors, transfer their knowledge and conclusions from the workshops in our office and the meetings of the secret services in our living room table. Originally they remind us that most people are very quick to make decisions, but very slow to revise.
Something that we should change at once, if we want to get right even one provision we do for our lives.
Then they suggest us eleven tips, to bear always in mind, as a cheat sheet whenever you want to ... progress with our thinking. Naturally, we will not predict what will happen to us, in five years. But we will -according to our goals, lead things where we want, fulfilling our own personal prophecies.
1. Ask (yourself) the right questions: These should not be either too simplistic or too sophisticated. We are much more likely to predict how the weather will be in two days, rather than who will be prime minister in 2028. According to experts, there are two dangers lurking here: Whether to fail to predict what is very predictable, either wasting our time trying to predict the unthinkable. Let us place, then, the question that concerns us in the right base.
2. Break the problem into subcategories: Try, apart from their obvious aspects, to discover those that are less visible. Expose and examine your assumptions. Do you think that even the chance to fall in love can be predictable and mostly measurable? The authors report the case of Peter B, a lonely man in London who managed to anticipate the number of potential sexual partners of chopping the ... problem in forecasting subcategories. He started by London's population (about 6 million.)
He, then, calculated the percentage of women in the world population (about 50%), the proportion of singles (50%), the proportion of the appropriate for his age group (about 26%), the percentage of women would find him attractive (only 5%) and the percentage of those ones he matches (about 10%). The conclusion was that 26 women were likely to become companions: not insignificant number from the statistical side ...
3. Find a balance between what we expect and what (really) apply: Harvard professor Larry Summers had the following eccentric tactics with his subordinates. When he was asking one of them how much it would take to do a task, he doubled the time and then he was converting it to the next time unit: i.e. if an employee said he needed one hour, he concluded that it would take two days to complete his task. Somehow, he was adopting the external factors and usually he was correct. Tetlock recommends that we should face, in a similar way, our expectations.
4. Manage indications properly: Our beliefs are like hi-tech mobile. They require regular update. And this is taking into account the slightest evidence we have at any time on our disposal. Yes, Martin was the best colleague you had until last week. You will continue to feel the same now, that he left his job half done and flew in London for three days, loading it on your shoulders?
5. Consider the contrasting forces every problem: All matters have the opposite side., that together they lead to the composition. To achieve the composition, according to experts, one, should be open to different perspectives, so each time, you use them to create the big picture. Indeed, aggressive tactics to never benefited anyone. Perhaps in another environment this belief is somehow not applicable.
6. Expand your doubts, but do not overdo it: Few things are definite or too weak and "probably" does not help much. Your question, then, must have many grades: think like the radio volume that you can increase or decrease as appropriate.
7. Find the balance between optimism and pessimism, prudence and determination: Prediction professionals know that a quick decision, same as, the constant 'maybe', involve risk. From their experiences they have learned to distinguish their shortcomings and «false alarms» and act accordingly. Do you also do the same? Scan times you took an irrational decision and those with delays, by staying undecided and you will see, the life opportunities you wasted. The right tactics are somewhere in the middle.
8. Accept your failures: Remember that the biggest mistake you can make, is not to learn from your failures. Also do not forget to X-ray your successes, knowing that many of them didn’t happen due to the right tactic nor due to strong instinct, but simply by avoiding mistakes.
9. Take the best of others and let them do the same with you: On the point conversations, correct questions and constructive disagreements: these are the secrets of successful partnerships, Gardner says. He uses the metaphor of a successful American coach in managing people: imagine that you hold a pigeon in your hands. If you hold it too tightly you kill it, but if you hold it too loosely, it will fly away.
10. Forecasting is like riding a bicycle: one never learned to drive by reading a manual. You only learn with practice. And you will understand both success and failure. The first would make pedaling comfortably, the second would fall and hurt. But do not ever get off it. It is the only way to reach far.
11. Do not follow the above rules as rules: Let just open our horizons and mind, wider. No problems are alike and no history ever got repeated in exactly the same manner. You will not always predict correctly, sometimes you will miles far, sometimes you will be very close.
"Try, fail, analyse, reposition your attitude, and try again":
this is the most important advice that results from the book and researching, by Tetlock and Gardner.
And of course do not forget to leave many things to the chance and embrace the unexpected. This is also a form of art...