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Numbers don’t count
August 31, 2009, 8:30 am
Filed under: Experience


One of the greatest client obstacles I come across with transmedia planning is predictive modelling. Everyone wants to know exactly what they’re going to get for their investment. Before it happens.

We forget that every time we put out a message into the complex system of society- it’s an experiment.

No one seems to be aware that when we’re talking about numbers here, we’re essentially talking experimental rocket science…

Let me thrash out a metaphor. The word quantum is Latin for “how great” or “how much:

Quantum mechanics helps describe potential: the state of a system at a given time is described by a complex wave function. This abstract mathematical object allows for the calculation of probabilities. For example, it allows one to compute the probability of finding an electron in a particular region around the nucleus at a particular time.*

The deal with quantum mechanics is that observation collapses the waves of probability (essentially a description of all of the potential outcomes) into a single reality. So you don’t know where some thing might be until you look at it. Then you definitely know (but you’ve probably affected it’s position by looking at it.)

Right- so how does this relate to predictive modelling?

  • Unless your clients can deal with this:
    \Delta x\, \Delta p \ge \frac{\hbar}{2} they probably won’t be able to understand how people might respond to:
    • (SM+ UCG+ CRM+ CSR+ ATL +WOM…)
    • and we probably won’t know how to model it either

Let’s look at this differently:

  • What if we don’t try to accumulate numbers, what if we try to curate them instead?
  • What if we tried to find out where the energy is in the system between a brand and it’s stakeholders?
  • What if we tried to find out the most resonant agents in that system?
  • What if we tried to find out how few people we could talk to to get the effect we were after?
  • What if we tried to find the people that counted? (and not just count the people?)

Ultimately, media+messaging really isn’t about what gets served…it’s about what serves you.

* Yes I know QM is about subatomic particles. It’s a metaphor.


7 Comments so far
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Complex systems? What nonsense! Who would believe in those?

Predictive modes do sometimes work – they probably fit in the complicated space in this framework: – but you’re right, where you have complexity, they run into problems.

Is “curating” basically about sensing & monitoring? I’d like to hear a bit more about that.

The only thing about the “resonant agents” bit is that it sounds like the “influencer” model. It may not be clear who the resonant agents will be in a system until you engage with it.

Dave Snowden has an interesting post here (with a software spruiking bit in the middle):

Comment by Matt Moore

Hi Matt

My rumination is not that predictive models do or don’t’ work- it’s that neither we nor our clients tend to have the math skill required to design them, read the results, draw conclusions and feed back into the model.

I’m going to further explore curating and resonant agents- it’s not really a Gladwell influencer thought because I don’t believe in exchanging one broadcast model for another. And you’re right- the only way to find them is to look and to experiment.

Comment by katiechatfield

I will look forward to it!

N.B. Regarding models. There’s a quote from Paul Cillers: “the network used as model for a complex system will have to have the same level of complexity as the system itself”

Comment by Matt Moore

[…] …and so this this is how I get to my thinking around ‘curating resonant agents‘: […]

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Kick ass post. We like it.

Comment by Charles

[…] recent example: Numbers don’t count: “One of the greatest client obstacles I come across with transmedia planning is predictive […]

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