Putting probability to work

Dealing with uncertainty

We hardly ever know the future in as much detail as we’d like. We can’t know what a particular customer will buy, when a particular computer will crash, or exactly where the next gold deposit will be. But we can know what a kind of customer is likely to buy, about how many computers will crash this month, and the most promising place to dig for gold.

Probability gives us a way to proceed rationally in the face of uncertainty. It allows us to make the best decisions we can, given what we know and don’t know.

Some events are truly random. Others, though not random, are so chaotic or hard to predict that it’s convenient to think of them as if they are random. Probability (specifically Bayesian analysis) gives us a way of treating different sources of uncertainty in a unified manner.

Communicating probability

Probability is subtle, and people often need to make decisions involving probability even though they don’t understand the mathematics involved. Lawyers have to make arguments based on probability that a randomly selected group of jurors will understand. Corporate boards need to make decisions involving probability; failure to take uncertainty into account can be very costly.

We have years of experience explaining ideas from probability to laymen in such a way that they can make intelligent decisions without having to plumb the mathematical depths of probability.

Problem solving experience

We’ve helped many businesses solve probability problems. Clients have wanted to know things like how reliable a data storage procedure is, how long it should take to catch a spammer, and which treatments are most likely to treat cancer effectively. We’ve helped clients evaluate investments, design medical devices, and plan marketing campaigns. All these problems boil down to probability.

In addition to finding probability problems for business, we also explain the solutions in terms that decision makers can understand. (A solution that no one understands well enough to act on doesn’t do any good.) Some clients come to us just for explanation. For example, a medical device manufacturer asked us to explain to their sales team what the medical literature had to say about their product. They needed to understand probabilities in a way they could confidently convey to their customers.

A. Lester Buck III “I met John a few years ago when I had been struggling for months with a problem in probability and statistics. John solved it overnight!” — A. Lester Buck III, Compact Data

Whether you have a probability problem or need to explain probability, we can help. Call or email now to discuss your needs.


Trusted consultants to some of the world’s leading companies

Amazon, Facebook, Google, US Army Corp of Engineers, Amgen, Microsoft, Hitachi Data Systems