The UK Election once again exposed the flaws of conventional polling. Surely there's a better way to predict these things in the 21st Century?
BrainJuicer are showing in what we call Me-to-We
research how techniques like Predictive Markets
, based on the Wisdom of Crowds,
are significantly more accurate in predicting election results, as well as which new product concepts will achieve commercial success.
It seems we are all unreliable witnesses to our own motivations. Try as we might, we are often 'self-deceit machines' - our true motivations are often hidden from us. One famous study found 50% of Swedish men believe they are in the top 10% of best drivers in the country - unlikely just to be a Swedish male foible. And as social animals, we are actually very good at noticing what other people are doing and predicting what they will do in the future. Our cognitive abilities as social creatures are widely acknowledged. And our excellent ability to "copy" is thought to be responsible for the transmission of ideas and cultural practices across populations and thus for our success as a species.
There's now a generation of breakthrough science in neuroscience
, social sciences
and behavioral economics
offering new techniques with the ability to increase our understanding of human behaviour and our prediction of it.
One example is Predictive Markets
, popularized by James Surowieck
i's book, The Wisdom of Crowds. He shares the extraordinary performance of the Iowa Electronic Market (IEM) over conventional polling. In over 600 elections, a non representative crowd of 500, mainly white, middle-aged guys, buying and selling shares in who they thought would win the election were more accurate than the most accurate of the polls, three quarters of the time.
So long as the crowd is large, diverse and faithfully aggregated, they do seem to be uncanny in their ability to predict what other people will do. BrainJuicer has spent the last five years experimenting with Predictive Markets
' potential for concept screening. In over 300 head-to-heads against gold standard monadic concept testing, we have shown Predictive Markets not only to be as accurate in identifying those rare top quartile winners, but far better at discriminating between good and deeply average concepts, enabling companies not to waste time and money polishing ideas that should never get to market.
Applying the method to the US elections just before the first primary, the crowd predicted that Obama and Hilary would be neck-and-neck and whoever won, would go on to win the Presidency. This was at a time when no poll suggested Obama would get anywhere near Hilary. This is still a technique in its infancy but as social animals it seems we have a talent for predicting other people's behaviour better than our own.
John Kearon is chief juicer of BrainJuicer will be presenting the ideas of Me-to-We research at the Future Flash conference this month.