The Rise and Fall of Nate Silver: A Lesson in Risk Communication


Political prognosticator and analytics guru Nate Silver rose to national fame by correctly predicting elections. But in 2016, Silver joined almost every other analyst by projecting a victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Was Silver’s good luck over?

Cognitive Bias and the “Failure” of Data

Actually, Silver’s estimate for the 2016 election was closer to correct than almost anyone else’s. He saw Clinton as a heavy favorite, but still gave Donald Trump a roughly one-in-three shot of winning. But the world didn’t remember that part of the projection once the election results came in. They just remembered the part Silver got wrong. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has an explanation: cognitive bias.

Kahneman studied how people make decisions and judgments, and he quickly discovered that they don’t make any sense. People like to think of themselves as logical and rational, but they mostly use logic to justify believing whatever they want to believe anyway. And one thing people absolutely love to believe is that the future is certain. Human minds loathe uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and fear—sometimes paralyzing fear. So when given a number like “one in three” or “ninety percent,” they subconsciously convert the odds to “yes” or “no.”

This cognitive bias is often very useful. You probably never consider the statistical chance that you’ll be run over by a bus because if you did, you might never leave the house. It’s far easier, and probably mentally healthier, to treat the risk of bus accidents as a 0. But the tendency to round probabilities up or down can be disastrous in the business world.

Communicating Risk

Have you told your boss that there’s a 90% chance you’ll make the sale? If the deal didn’t go through, you were probably in a bit of hot water. Has a supplier ever told you her product’s failure rate was less than 1%? You’d probably be pretty mad if your order was a dud. The problem with both of those statements of probability is that they do a poor job of communicating risk. They invite the mind’s cognitive bias to take over and convert the estimate into a certainty. When that certainty turns out not to be so certain, it feels like a broken promise.

That’s why the world decided Nate Silver was wrong. They had rounded up the probability of a Clinton victory to a guarantee. When Trump won, it felt like Silver had broken his word. His failure wasn’t in the data—it was in the way he communicated the risk.

The lesson here is that quoting numbers won’t save you. Don’t just toss out percentages—put them in context. Visualizations are one useful technique. If a product will fail one time in a hundred, a graphic with 99 white shapes and one black shape gets the message across far more effectively than the numbers. Analogies are also effective. A 90% probability? That’s about the same as the chance that an NFL kicker will make a 32-yard field goal. Anchoring the numbers to a familiar context creates a lasting impression. It forces the mind to acknowledge uncertainty.

In business and life, people care about honesty. But if your goal is to be trustworthy, it’s not enough to state the facts. You have to make those facts sink into others’ minds. When it comes to probabilities and risks, that task is taller than it looks.


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The One-Trick Pony Syndrome

One trick pony.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “a one-trick pony?”

Researchers believe the “one-trick pony” phrase comes from an entertainment background. According to research, the earliest reference was associated with circus ponies used to perform a trick or feat that impressed audiences. The ponies involved could do an amazing act, such as walking on their hind feet, but that was all they could do. Eventually, the audiences got bored with the show. In one version of the story, a pony had a dog partner that would ride on it. While the audience got sick of seeing the pony do the same thing every time the circus was in town, the dog gained fame because it learned and began to perform new tricks. In time, the dog became the star, and the pony was relegated to hauling circus carts.

Is Your Business A One-Trick Pony?

The moral of the story here is not to allow your business to get stuck on only one good thing. It’s tempting to think that if you have something good going, why ruin it? Well, over time that good thing will become less and less popular. The number of customers who want it will diminish and the business will have to start cutting prices to keep it attractive. Eventually, the product or service won’t sell at all.

Palm PDAs and Blackberry were both perfect examples of the one-trick pony mistake. They both had a really good product for a while, but both companies failed to upgrade and develop new products. Eventually, someone else did, and their customer base walked away. Those text screens on a Blackberry and similarly on a Palm PDA simply looked old and obsolete versus smartphones like the original Apple iPhone. The world had changed.

It’s Time to Diversify

Is your business riding the wave right now of a star pony? If so, now is the time to be looking for and generating a new path. Diversify into a new product or new service. Not only does it protect your business’ longevity, but multiple revenue streams from different customers will eventually offset each other when one of them starts to weaken.

Companies that map out their product/service life cycle and plan for eventual loss with replacement “ponies” are the firms that survive and grow. Don’t let all your energy, money, time, and effort go down the drain with a one-trick pony. Instead, use the initial success to be your springboard for the next one.


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Veterans Use the Internet to Expand Skill Set and Boost Income

Happy Veteran US Army
As a war veteran, Shane Thomason knows firsthand what it feels like to experience victory in battle. After being home for nearly ten years from the Iraqi War, Thomason now spends his time giving back to the community and expanding his occupational skill set via the internet. Owning more than 250 websites, including RandomVeteran.com, Thomason enjoys working from home and has found much success in being able to sell unique t-shirts and other novelty items online.

Thomason isn’t the only veteran taking advantage of the internet to boost his annual income. There are veterans located all across the globe who sell items and services online as a way to supplement their earnings, and for many of them, they simply do this for the same reason Thomason does — to pass the time and keep their minds occupied.

A former civil engineer for the US Navy, Zachary Scheel, says, “Veterans are comfortable operating in high-pressure environments that are changing rapidly, where they’re constantly forced to make decisions with incomplete information.” And while many common internet users may not think of the online world as being high-pressure, Thomason is sure to tell you different. From selling websites at exactly the right moment to creating content on a consistent basis, operating businesses and sites online is a full-time job that requires much attention, and more so, much intelligence.

There are many skills learned through the military and overseas that can be used in business. Six of the most valuable skills veterans can carry over from the battlefield are integrity, dependability, sharp decision-making, the initiative to go above and beyond, tenacity, and adaptability. The capability to take advantage of technology is also another skill that veterans are familiar with, making them all the more apt to find success. Whether it be learning new software or performing website coding, veterans often have a knack for training themselves.

Thomason wrote articles for his local newspaper, the Grayson County News Gazette, while serving in Iraq, which greatly improved his ability to write and has translated into an exceptional skill for being able to create web content, including home pages and product descriptions, which he uses to sell t-shirts and other items on RandomVeteran.com.

One of Thomason’s most valuable pieces of advice to other veterans who are considering using their skills for work is not to become a recluse. Thomason says, “helping the community by being actively involved is the primary way I am able to sustain peace in my life. Sure, working from home is great, but getting out in the community and working with the children and other veterans is what keeps me moving forward from one day to the next.” Thomason is the Commander of American Legion Post 81 and spends a great deal of time giving back to his community when he is not working.

Generating business is simple when veterans take advantage of the existing skill set that they acquired while serving in the military. Veterans can also find an abundance of resources available to them. From online training courses to website builders, many of these resources are available free of charge because they have served in the military.


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3 Easy Time Management Tips: How to Create More Hours in a Day

Time Management
The one natural resource there never seems to be enough of is time. There are only so many hours in a day. You don’t need to wish that tomorrow will suddenly be a 35-hour day to get all of your work done. Instead, you need to start using a few small, yet critical, time management tips today to work smarter, not harder, with the hours that you DO have available to you. Here are three tips to get you started.

1) Learn How to Travel Productively

These days, a significant portion of your work probably isn’t taking place within the confines of your office. Whether it’s meetings with clients or unexpected personal issues, you likely find yourself stepping away from your desk more and more. The key to time management isn’t learning how to keep up with your obligations in spite of these sudden duties. It’s learning how to fit in work time around them.

Even if you don’t have a mobile tablet that you carry around with you wherever you go, it’s still easier than ever to work remotely. If you’re not already using a cloud-based file sharing service like Dropbox or iCloud, you need to start. Changing a document on your work computer makes those adjustments instantly available to every other device you have. Likewise, services like Dropbox for Business allow for real-time collaboration on files, letting people get together to work on a project even when they don’t have the time to literally “get together” at all.

Remember, the smartphone that you likely carry around with you is more powerful than the technology that NASA used to send men to the moon in the 1960s. There are hundreds of thousands of apps that are available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores right now for you to use to customize that device in any way you see fit. Stop thinking about it like a device that you merely use to send and receive calls and start looking at it as your office on-the-go.

2) Hold Better Meetings

Meetings are just a fact of life. But one of the many reasons why people tend to dread that weekly “catch-up” gathering is because they’re huge drains of productivity. The answer to this problem isn’t to stop holding meetings altogether; it’s to start holding better meetings.

Think long and hard about why you’re having a meeting. If it’s just to convey information, you could probably save everyone a lot of time and just send a lengthy email or inter-office memo instead. A meeting should always justify its existence. If it doesn’t, it needs to drop off the schedule. Likewise, plan out an agenda for your meeting ahead of time and stick with it. Make sure everyone who needs to contribute knows what is expected of them before you all walk into a room, giving everyone a chance to be as prepared as they need to be.

3) Get Organized and Stay That Way

Again, time management isn’t about finding more hours in a day; it’s about working smarter, not harder with the hours you already have. One study estimates that as much as thirty percent of our working time each day is spent looking for misplaced items. It stands to reason that if you never feel like you have enough time to get things done, the true issue might just be that you need to take a look around and organize your life more effectively.


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The Importance of Employee Appreciation (For Morale)

Thank you whiteboard
As a hard worker, you want to be appreciated. This is simply human nature. We all want to feel our hard work is noticed and appreciated. After all, it only seems fair to be at least appreciated for giving your blood, sweat, and tears to make a profit for your employer. As an employer, you need to understand the importance appreciation has when it comes to the morale of your workplace. Appreciation is a huge aspect of a healthy, thriving workplace environment.

The Data Proves The Importance of Appreciation

A Chicago Tribune survey asked 30,000 employees who enjoyed their job why they loved their work. The most common reason cited by these employees was, “I feel genuinely appreciated at this company.” This data shows what we have been talking about, showing appreciation matters. Making people feel like their efforts at work make a difference is important. The next step is learning how to communicate genuine appreciation without it coming across as fake.

What Appreciation is Not

Just because your goal is to show your employees the appreciation they deserve doesn’t mean you will automatically know how to go about this. There are a few clear ways not to go about showing appreciation, though. For example, don’t just depend on your employee recognition program to do the job. Appreciation at Work found that around thirty to thirty-five percent of employees don’t want to go up in front of a large group and accept an appreciation award anyway. Therefore, even though an event created to show appreciation is well intentioned, it can backfire and create an adverse outcome. Often, even if a person doesn’t mind going up in front and receiving such an award, the certificate or gift they receive feels impersonal. Generic, group-based awards don’t feel genuine in many cases, so employees don’t find this as motivating as true appreciation. Besides, saying one positive thing about an employee in front of a group hardly makes up for an entire year ignoring all the extra work an employee is doing.

What Authentic Appreciation Looks Like

Of course, money always talks, so giving out bonuses, gift cards, or other monetary rewards is an excellent way to show appreciation. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that your employees only want to receive financial rewards. They also want to hear how appreciated they are on a regular basis. Keep in mind that appreciation doesn’t have to be something you say, it can be something you don’t say. For example, if your employee works extra hours all the time and they have to take off to handle a personal situation, don’t give them a hard time because they are out of the office for one day. This only makes them resent being at work and in turn, makes them a less productive employee who will eventually start looking for work elsewhere.

Remember, don’t act like your reward for their hard work or their paycheck is a gift. You aren’t giving them a gift. You are simply paying them what they are owed. Look at bonuses the same way. It might seem like “extra” to you, but to your employee, they feel they have worked hard to “earn” that money by working extra hours or taking on additional responsibilities.

Creating a workplace that shows appreciation is necessary to keep employees happy and loyal. The saying, “an employee who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected” says it all. Although your employees are getting paid for services rendered, they are people who want to feel like their efforts matter to the company. This is a crucial piece towards creating healthy morale in the workplace.


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The Long-Term Benefits of Making Leisure Time a Priority

Leisure Benifits
Listening to the waves as they cascade against the sand, feeling the warm breeze against your face, understanding that all is right with the world, at least for that moment, that is what vacation is for most people. Perhaps you would trade the ocean waves for the sound of an eagle soaring through resplendent mountaintops covered in evergreens or snowcaps. The idea, though, is that you are away from your everyday world. You stop clocking in. You aren’t dealing with the stress that encompasses so much of your everyday existence. You are on vacation.

What do you think about this vacation time? Is it well deserved for your hard labor? Is it perhaps frivolous? Do you wonder if you will ever get to realize this dream, this break from your life? Well, read on to learn why vacation is not only an excellent way to rejuvenate your body; it has also been proven to be something you shouldn’t put off:

You Can’t Possibly Get More Done After a Break: Or Can You?

In essence, yes, you are more apt to be productive when you take the time to rejuvenate your body, soul, and mind. A report by the New York Times showed that your body “needs” the break vacation provides. There is even evidence that you become more productive once you get back from your vacation than you would have had you simply skipped your break. The Times reported the following about this aspect of the study findings:

“The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”

Other Benefits Besides Increased Productivity

In addition to being more productive and focused when you return from vacation, there is also evidence that you will garner a whole new perspective on things once you get a break. A CNN report stated that workers who took a break from their jobs enjoyed a new perspective on their lives when they were away from the stresses and problems of their daily existence. Family relationships are also strengthened when vacation is made a priority as family members are able to spend large amounts of non-distracted time together when away from their regular responsibilities.

Do Americans Get it Right?

In most cases, Americans don’t get vacation right at all. In fact, other countries handle this issue much better. The average French worker, for instance, takes more than twice the vacation time of an American worker. Americans typically use only sixteen of their eighteen vacation days according to a 2010 study. An Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S. report revealed an average of 3.2 paid days off left unused by workers, amounting to around 429 million unused vacation days.

Why It’s so Difficult For Americans to Relax

There are many studies just like the ones listed above that show vacation as a way to improve employee morale, increase productivity, and create a healthier working class, so why don’t Americans make vacation a priority? Most of those who were asked simply said they felt they had too much work to do to take time off. Do we as American workers really feel that our European counterparts aren’t also busy? No. Instead, we feel the world will fall apart if we don’t keep it spinning. Workers in other countries simply don’t have this belief. Therefore, if we as Americans want to make our lives better overall, we have to begin to understand that we don’t personally keep the world in orbit. We can leave for a few days here and there, or a week once in a while. Our country, workplaces, and families will not only survive, but they’ll be the better for it.

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A Leadership Ethics Lesson

Ethical Printing Royal Palm Beach

Ethical Printing Royal Palm Beach


Although ethical behavior in business is often touted, it can be hard to attain in practice. That’s because ethical behavior has to be practiced by every individual, every day. It’s not the sort of thing that can be decided upon and implemented en masse. Leaders are often under particular pressure to be practical over ethical. The reasoning is often because hard decisions require frequent compromise, and ethics often come across as black-and-white perspectives that don’t match the reality facing a decision-maker.

A Virtue You Can’t Afford to Ignore

However, ignoring ethics can be a dangerous path. Nick Leeson provides a very vivid example of this. His name is well known in financial circles as the man who single-handedly put the Singapore financial markets into a panic and brought down one of Britain’s most famous banks.

Leeson got his start early in banking as a clerk in 1985. At first, Leeson seemed to be a success. However, he began quickly playing outside the rules, and because he was bringing in big profits, Barings Bank ignored the risks.

By 1992, trades started going bad. Leeson packed the losses into a technical account originally designed as a dummy account for accounting errors. No one noticed, so he continued on his unethical path of hiding losses repeatedly. The tipping point came in January 1995 when Leeson placed a big trade between the Singapore and Japanese markets. Not expecting a major earthquake in Japan to throw both markets into a tailspin, Leeson realized the gig was up and went into hiding. Barings Bank folded a few weeks later owing £827 million in losses, and eventually, Leeson went to prison.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Interestingly, following good ethics not only avoids situations like Leeson’s, but it also works as a defense for a business leader. The adage, “actions speak louder than words” is true for ethics as well. Ethical behavior not only keeps employees behaving on the right side of the law, but it also gives managers and leaders incentive to work for more than just the bottom line. Ethics can incorporate greater goodwill for the community a business operates in, safety protection of employees and customers, market protection from unscrupulous players, and far better interaction with the government and regulators. All of which, in turn, help a company see a larger bottom line.

No question, the ethical path isn’t always the easiest. However, leaders of companies and organizations need to remember that good ethics involve more than just an individual perspective; by the very nature of their role, top managers affect all of the organization and set an example for staff to follow and the community to model after. Good ethics can be far more than just a set of rules; it can be a powerful marketing/communication tool positively setting a business apart in the market from competitors and creating the long-term foundation for customer retention.

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Different By Design: 6 Tips for Adopting The Principles Of Disruption and Improving Your Marketing Strategy

flamingo

Less than a decade ago, one of the world’s largest transport networks was simply an imaginative flicker in the minds of two men trying to hail a taxi on a cold Paris night. After failing to snag a car, the two men came up with an idea of an on-demand taxi service at the touch of a button. What began on a snowy evening in France quickly turned into an app to request luxury sedans in a tiny handful of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. Soon it spread to include different types of rides, package and even food delivery in nearly any city on earth. That app was Uber.

Uber is now one of the world’s richest start-ups. Along with other innovative digital companies such as Airbnb, Snapchat, Netflix, and even Buzzfeed, Uber has grasped a powerful disruptive strategy that has brought it financial and scalable success in a short amount of time. Disruptive businesses such as these can pick out and then act on trends before they become a trend, building a niche in a market that many people haven’t even discovered yet. Follow these six tips to learn some disruptive strategies that will help to differentiate your business and set it up for future growth.

1) Be technologically savvy

Get to know what is happening in the world of all things digital and tech, even outside of your own industry. Something that can revolutionize your business might come from a spark of something you’ve noticed in a different market or business type.

2) Be a first adopter

Often successful companies are the first ones to take on changes and innovations and to use them to their advantage. Don’t be afraid to step out on your own when trying something new.

3) Rely on sharing

Businesses can no longer rely solely on traditional forms of advertising. Combining your marketing channels to include print, as well as digital sharing and promotion can be the easiest and quickest ways to reach potential customers.

4) Keep up with the competition

Stay aware of what your competitors are doing and be prepared to match their innovations with yours.

5) Interact with customers

Uber and the like are successful for their ability to connect with customers instantly. Listening to your customers helps to gauge demand and enhance the consumer relationship. With the rise of social media, customers are developing increasing expectations for transparency from businesses. Forming a connection with your clients will add to their loyalty and trust of your company. With constant lines of communication open to your customers, you can also respond quicker to real-time changes in the market, safeguarding you from future pitfalls.

6) Track your success

Digital data provides you with the tools and metrics to see how and where your customers are coming to awareness and consideration of your services or products. Understanding and using data effectively can make the difference in building and maintaining new business and answering needs within the market.


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Why You Can Never Nurture Your Leads TOO Much

trust

If you think that you can comfortably stop nurturing your leads as soon as they make that ever-important sale, you’re only seeing one small part of a much larger and more important picture. The fact of the matter is that you can NEVER nurture your leads too much for a variety of important reasons.

Why Lead Nurturing is So Important

Lead nurturing is an essential part of any business, but judging by some recent studies, it may be more important than you think. According to Gleanster Research, as many as half of all the leads coming into your business may be qualified, but they’re not yet ready to buy. Nurturing is perhaps the single best way to make sure you’re able to convert as much of that 50% as possible into a sale.

To make things more interesting, research from InsideSales.com shows that between 35% and 50% of all sales go to a brand that responds to a customer FIRST. This means that even if you know you’re working with a qualified lead AND you know that they’ll eventually be ready to buy, they may not buy with YOU at all if you don’t have a timely presence in their life.

That, in a nutshell, is why lead nurturing is so mission critical to your organization. If you’re not nurturing properly and using timely marketing collateral to help usher someone down the sales funnel, you may be doing little more than perfectly setting someone up to make a purchase with one of your competitors.

NSN: “Never Stop Nurturing”

Consumers want to be loyal to a brand. However, they’re also loyal to themselves and their own situations first and foremost. If you think that just because you’ve ushered a lead down the sales funnel and convinced them to make a purchase that you’ll have them forever, you’re sadly mistaken. And, unfortunately, this is one mistake that you’re likely to pay dearly for.

Remember that “making a sale” is NOT the only benefit of consistent lead nurturing. According to research, leads that have been nurtured experience a 23% shorter sales cycle than those who have not been. Nurturing over time (as opposed to just in the beginning of your relationship) can even increase your revenue over the next six to nine months by as much as 10% or more.

Remember that a constant and consistent nurturing gives way to perhaps the biggest benefit of all: retention. According to one study, it costs 500% more to bring in a new customer than it does to keep a current one. Likewise, the cost of bringing a new customer up to the same level of profitability as one of your old ones is up to 16% more. All of this is to say that by adopting the mantra of “I can never nurture a lead too much” today, you could be saving yourself a tremendous amount of money tomorrow.

Nurturing a lead to the point where you’ve made a sale is important, but this is not the point where your story ends. Consistently nurturing your leads even AFTER a sale will continue to pay dividends over the lifetime of your relationship with that person. The benefits of retention versus bringing in new customers alone should be more than worth the effort you’ll need to make.


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Qualities That Brands With Longevity Share

brands

In the world of business, there is perhaps no commodity more precious than longevity. Getting a brand up and off the ground is one thing – keeping it around for the long-term is something else entirely. Creating longevity will rely in large part on your marketing, although this is only one small part of a much greater whole. The best marketing campaign in the world can’t create a long-standing, successful brand if a few qualities aren’t underneath it all just waiting to be communicated to the widest possible audience.

They Trigger an Emotional Response

One of the biggest traits that all brands with serious longevity share is the fact that they’re able to trigger an emotional response with their target audience, creating a loyal army of followers. This is true both with the way they market AND the way that response integrates into the service they provide.

Apple is a great example of this based on their image as the “hip, trendy” electronics company. People see a sleek, sophisticated Apple product in an equally compelling ad and they can’t help but think, “That looks really cool; I want that.” The same goes for a company like Amazon.com, albeit from a different angle. The way that Amazon has embraced personal marketing, both regarding the advertising it creates and with regards to the personalized recommendations that each user enjoys, makes them think, “I like Amazon; they get me.” That type of emotional connection is something you just can’t put a price on.

They Live Up to What They Promise

All of the best brands with serious longevity share the fact that they live up to the promises they make in their marketing materials. This comes from a deeper understanding of not just the people they’re trying to attract, but who those people are and what they want. These brands know how to communicate with their target audience and, as a result, don’t just live up to their promises, but they know how NOT to make a promise they can’t keep.

Take FedEx, for example. Entrepreneur.com recently cited FedEx as a brand with an incredibly strong corporate identity, owed largely to the fact that it’s operations are so incredibly efficient. FedEx is a brand built on trust, and the road to trust is paved with promises that have been kept in the past. FedEx is seen as an incredibly reliable service, and people in need of shipping rank FedEx favorably in that regard. This creates something of a self-fulfilling prophecy – a symbiotic relationship that only strengthens over time specifically because FedEx knows what its audience wants and it knows how precisely to give it to them every time.

Once again, Apple is another example of this idea in motion. They promise products that “just work” and have historically delivered on that promise time and again. This has made them not only one of the most successful brands in the world, but also one with serious longevity in an industry where companies come and go like the weather.

These are just a few of the core qualities that all brands with longevity share. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, brands come and go all the time. Creating a brand is easy, but if you want to make sure that your brand stands the test of time, you need to focus on offering something truly unique on an ongoing basis.


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