CHAPTER 20

Why It’s So Hard for Us to Communicate Uncertainty

An interview with Scott Berinato by Nicole Torres

We use data to make predictions. But predictions are just educated guesses—they’re uncertain. And when they’re being communicated, they’re incredibly difficult to explain or clearly illustrate.

A case in point: The 2016 U.S. presidential election did not unfold the way so many predicted it would. We now know some of the reasons why—polling failed—but watching the real-time results on the night of Tuesday, November 8, wasn’t just surprising, it was confusing. Predictions swung back and forth, and it was hard to process the information that was coming in. Not only did the data seem wrong, the way we were presenting that ...

Get HBR Guide to Data Analytics Basics for Managers (HBR Guide Series) now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.