Storied Statistics

Nate Silver is huge right now. Any periodical that gets within a ten-foot poll of politics (which, in the past few weeks has been all of them) has written about him numerous times over the last month. And in an even more accurate (or at least modern) bellwether of his fame, multiple memes have been dedicated to him.

The statistician and writer behind fivethirtyeight.com concocted a statistical model that accurately predicted how the electoral votes for all 50 state would go, predicting an almost blowout win for Obama during the weeks before election day when the predominate feeling from the experts and the most prominent polls was that it was a tight race with unknowable results. So a lot of people are hailing him as some sort of mathematical Nostradamus.

But for an interesting take on Silver’s success, see Felix Salmon’s Reuters op-ed, When Quants Tell Stories. According to Salmon, what differentiates Nate Silver wasn’t the model itself, but Silver’s ability to tell a compelling narrative around it. Salmon states:

If you think that the value of Nate Silver is in the model, you’re missing the most important part: there are lots of people with models, and most of those models are pretty similar to each other. The thing which sets Silver apart from the rest is that he can write: he can take a model and turn it into a narrative, walking his readers through to his conclusions.

The story. It always gets back to the story. Whether it’s business or politics, the story is the difference. But it’s not just about story. It’s about carefully crafted narrative. After all, anybody can tell a story. Creating a sensible, nuanced, compelling narrative is the hard part. We’ve talked about that here on the Maark blog before because that’s a big part of what we do here (Sorry. Have to do a little bit of pushing the company here on the blog every once in a while).

At Maark we have entire methodolgies on how to create the most compelling narrative that will speak both to the emotions of the prospective buyer and the logic of the company’s bottom line, that walks customers through complex products and market trends and pressures to arrive at a clear course of action that both excites and convinces.

I mean, if a man can become a meme just because he can tell a clear, laymen-sensible story around something as loaded and complicated as statistics, businesses should be able to do the same with their solutions, no matter what they sell.

Photo credit: Randy Stewart, Wikimedia Commons