Dan Gardner

Dan Gardner

Risk Management & Forecasting | Award-winning Journalist | Bestselling Author

Can we improve our ability to forecast the future and manage risks to do better in business and life? Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Dan Gardner tackles these questions and more in his eye-opening and mind-expanding talks. Based on his bestselling books about psychology and decision making, Gardner’s talks draw on the latest research and his long experience in journalism and politics to challenge assumptions and find creative solutions.

A former journalist and national affairs commentator, Dan’s work has won or been nominated for every major award in Canadian newspaper journalism, including the National Newspaper Award, the Michener Award, and the Canadian Association of Journalists Award. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of three books — Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, Future Babble, and, most recently, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, which was named one of the best books of 2015 by The Economist, Bloomberg, and Amazon. His books have been published in 24 countries and 19 languages.

Currently a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Dan has spoken and consulted to organizations worldwide, including Google, Goldman Sachs, Siemens, Zurich Insurance, Khosla Ventures, and a variety of hedge funds and governments.


Risk Perception and Misperception

We sometimes worry about things we shouldn’t and don’t worry about things we should. Worse, we dismiss clear evidence that our risk perceptions are off the mark and we act in ways that may leave us poorer, unhealthier, and less safe.

In this stimulating and entertaining presentation, Dan Gardner shows the explanation lies in our brain and the ancient environment that shaped it. The good news? Understanding how psychology can lead us astray is the first step to catching our mistakes about risk and making smarter decisions.

Communicating Risk

You’re sure you’ve got a risk figured out but the people on the other side of the table don’t believe you. You show them the data. They shrug. Doesn’t matter, they say. You are astonished. “But the data proves I am right! Look at the data!” They shrug. Not convinced, they say. This makes no sense. “Look at the data and stop being irrational!” Now they’re unconvinced and angry.

This scenario has played out a thousand times in a thousand places and it always ends badly. The problem lies in a failure to understand that while logic and numbers matter in people’s thinking, they often matter much less than we realize. In this presentation, Dan Gardner explores the fundamentals of how people perceive, think, and decide — then shows how we can speak to what really shapes people’s judgements with language that engages, informs, and changes minds.

From Forecasting to Superforecasting

Accurately forecasting the near- to medium-range future isn’t impossible. But it is hard. And doing it better than your competitors is that much harder.

In this presentation, Dan Gardner delves into the largest study of forecasting ever undertaken — a program sponsored by the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Among the many revelations was the discovery of a small percentage of forecasters who were consistently outstanding.

What makes these “superforecasters” so good? They are well-informed, but superforecasters don’t owe their success to specialist knowledge or secret information.  They are intelligent, but it isn’t their IQ that makes them the best. And they are numerate, but their accuracy isn’t the product of algorithms and arcane math.

What makes the difference is how they think. And that isn’t something they’re born with. The cognitive characteristics and mental habits of superforecasters can be learned, adopted, and practiced. With the right attitude and effort, any forecaster can become a superforecaster.

What If? Planning For The Long Term

Even the best forecasters can see only a short distance into the future, and in business and at home we have to plan many years ahead. Sometimes we even have to plan decades into the future. But, if we can’t see what’s coming, how can we plan for it?

Brilliant thinkers have wrestled with this problem for a century and they have developed many techniques for grappling with the long-term future: scenarios, sign-posting, stress-testing, pre-mortems, retrocasting, and many others. The details vary but they all ask “What if?” What if the future played out this way, or that way, or some other way? What position would my company be in? What about my family?

Good long-term planning is about designing a plan that works well across a wide array of possible futures. But how wide is “wide”? That’s the tricky part. And it’s where this approach so often falls down.

Evolution has shaped us to think short-term. That means we tend to assume recent experience will continue, no matter how far out we look. So, while we do see a range of possible futures ahead, it tends to be a narrow range. It’s like we have tunnel vision. And a planner with tunnel vision is in trouble.

Drawing on the latest psychology and neuroscience, along with startling stories drawn from history, Dan Gardner shows how to smash the tunnel walls to see the full array of possible futures, and make plans that deliver no matter what the future brings.