Decision making

Author: Lisa Schutz, Managing Director – InFact Decisions

almanis wants to help you (and all their forecasters) get real value out of participating on the site, and ultimately they want to help improve your decision making.  And that means using the insights delivered on almanis to power the way you make decisions. In life. At work. Wherever it counts. For you.

There is a lot of talk now about data, big data, unstructured data etc. However, if I might be so bold, talking data first is putting the cart before the horse. Data is only valuable if it’s useful, and that’s why the focus of my work as a strategist and analyst is on decisions not data. I’m so passionate about this subject that I wrote a book about it – called somewhat unsurprisingly Decisions Not Data.  But it’s not just me. PwC last year did a report on Big Decisions and this year CapGemini wrote a great article summarising their research and stating the case for excellence in data driven decision making (rather than data analysis or collection!). It’s great to see the focus shifting back to decisions, where it truly belongs.

So there are two things I invite you to consider. What are the most important decisions you face? How could you harness crowd intelligence via almanis as one of the data feeds to that decision? You could turn to almanis and ask the crowd the questions that will improve your decision making.  That’s what I did.

I work with large data sets, big data if you will, sometimes small data, sometimes very messy and hard to use data. And in many cases, it seemed to me that the greatest information asset in most organisations is its people, and it’s being wasted. almanis.com enables you to harness the world’s people intelligence and transform it, via the almanis prediction market, into a highly refined signal. It’s backed up by rigorous science, lots of practical examples (in the intelligence community for instance) and in our case you can go here to see our latest accuracy stats. Or almanis.com for a summary of the science that powers our market.

For instance, as I write this post – almanis is showing that it’s directionally right in 92% of cases with geopolitical questions. What use can you put that to today?

Forecasting product demand:
Here’s a thought. Let’s say that I run a supermarket in Australia and I want to forecast the demand for powdered milk. Those who know the Australian market will know that demand for powdered milk is far greater than domestic consumption would suggest, because every time there is a food scare in China demand surges. So, if I want to forecast demand and work out how much to put out on the shelves, it might be worth asking a question about the chance of a China food scare that makes a paper of record in a Western country in the next quarter.

Forecasting regional budgets:
The classic case on this is the almanis question on lifting of Iran sanctions. That’s a tough call to make, in point of fact that almanis crowd was highly volatile on the subject. But the commentary and the degree of volatility would be helpful to anyone whose job involves making decisions based on the likelihood of the lifting of sanctions happening (it did happen by the way). If nothing else, the way the almanis crowd processed the information on Iran indicated that
A. It was highly uncertain right up until January
B. There were some great resources available within the community with some really exciting opinions.
If I was trying to forecast a Middle East budget as an analyst, the data from almanis would help me document the key assumptions and would support me in assigning high risk to any numbers I put forward. And, it would be an invaluable sense check. It’s actually a bit of a no brainer!

Planning my next trip:
What about my overseas trip? Let’s say that I am planning to travel to a rather high risk area for malaria. We ask health questions all the time. Why not pose a question. You could ask whether the incidence of malaria for 2016 for country x will exceed y confirmed cases (or whatever measure from the Global Health Observatory you want to pick). The difference between almanis and most statistics is that in asking the crowd, almanis provides a leading indicator. When you need a signal to make a decision not an ex post explanation of why what you did was wrong, almanis is very helpful indeed.  The almanis team is actually working on tools to help with epidemics in a pro bono project, as we speak. There should be more on that in due course.

Assessing liability risk as an insurer:
What if I work in insurance and am heavily exposed to the US East Coast. I may well want to get a different opinion to my in-house experts on the likely severity of hurricane season. Well, almanis has a question up on that right now.

I want to win the office sweep on Eurovision:
Then of course there is the honour and glory of making the right calls on matters of prestige – like guessing who wins Eurovision. Why not put a question up and get the almanis crowd’s view. FYI the crowd is definitely not supportive of Sweden this year. See here.

What decisions do you need to make today? I can’t help you there. Only you know. But the ones that matter probably keep you awake at night, so why not get the world to help you out? Next time you can’t sleep because of a question you can’t answer, ask yourself if you can get the almanis community to work on it? What decisions has almanis already helped you with? We’d love to know.
Please share with us stories and examples of where you are planning to use almanis, or have done, we would love to hear from you. It makes us feel good about the work we do at almanis, and to the extent that it inspires everyone involved including all of our wonderful forecasters, your sharing will get you better answers.

Better decisions for the world. Happy forecasting (and decision making).

Lisa Schutz, Managing Director InFact Decisions

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