Shifting Metaphors 1


Above the Noise

Distilling insights and key lessons from new concepts and current events. In this post, one of our founding partners, Jon Mayes, explains the underappreciated cognitive costs of "bad" predictions

As a practitioner of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, I have a natural curiosity for how our brains function. One key insight from the excellent and digestible 7½ Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett is that the brain runs on predictions. That is, instead of simply reacting to stimuli, the brain predicts its next action or state of being and then confirms its accuracy with sensory input.

To illustrate this, think about a time when you were very thirsty. This feeling almost immediately disappears as you begin to drink. However, it takes longer than that time for the water to a) be absorbed and b) for brain to detect a discernible change in body fluids. In this situation, the brain knows that drinking the water satisfies its need and moves on, freeing mental energy for the next challenge.

For prediction to work, the entity making the prediction must be able to learn. Learning, in humans, algorithms, and organizations is most often triggered when an observed outcome differs from what we expect. While we as humans place a high value on “learning,” it is, in reality, an expensive process, either metabolically, computationally, or financially. Further, an entity in a constant state of learning, or put another way, one that is constantly wrong about the state of the world, often finds itself in a state of anxiety, which, ironically, inhibits its ability to learn, creating a negative feedback loop.

The key takeaway is that we must understand how both the quality and types of predictions affect our businesses and the people that comprise them. An organization under a constant regime of unrealistic goals, i.e. predictions about performance, will be in a bad constant state of learning and anxiety. More insidious are those predictions with false precision. That is, devoting unnecessary energy to explaining a difference in result from a point estimate when the result was well within the confidence interval of prediction. Both errors are pervasive in our business lives and can be managed with mindfulness and intent.

The partners at Quantum Logik Consulting take pride in improving our clients’ capability to make better predictions and to instill a more impactful mindset around the use of prediction within the entire organization.


Another key takeaway about the “predicting brain” is that predictions are influenced by the experiences and ideas we expose our brains to. In that spirit, on April 6th, Quantum Logik Consulting is hosting an International Management Symposium exploring the transition from the Knowledge Economy 1.0 to 2.0 and the opportunities and challenges that will emerge as a result. We cordially invite you to attend this free and informative event by signing up at the link here.  Excited to see you there!