Association Executive Book Shelf

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
(©2015 Broadway Books)


Review by Raphael Badagliacca


In the early pages of Superforecasting by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner, there is a quotation from Bill Gates, "I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition." It goes on to say, "You can make incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress towards that goal." Gates then expresses surprise at how few organizations and people do this right.


The superforecasters in this book have a special knack for predicting things with accuracy. "They aren't gurus or oracles... what makes these superforecasters so good... It's not really who they are. It is what they do. Foresight isn't a mysterious gift bestowed at birth. It is the product of particular ways of thinking, of gathering information, of updating beliefs. These habits of thought can be learned and cultivated by any intelligent, thoughtful, determined person."


The authors enlist the phrase "active open-mindedness" to describe the disciplined attitude superforecasters bring to their task. Having the right data is requisite, but translating the data into numbers is what makes thinking explicit. To make estimates with accuracy the forecasters "have to think carefully about how they are thinking, a process known as metacognition."


Anyone who knows the methods stays "mentally active" and assumes the attitude of a "lifelong learner" can produce results. Of the superforecasters, the authors tell us, "The great majority of their forecasts are simply the product of careful thought and measured judgment."


For organizations of any kind, including Not-for-Profits, the most important data to predict is your own, which brings us back to the Bill Gates quote about setting goals and measuring. This month's companion book review shows how forecasting principles apply directly to the goal of organizational improvement.

The Association Executive’s Guide to Organizational Performance by Robert Alves and Don Robertson
(©  2015


Review by Raphael Badagliacca


The books in this column have been selected and written about to explore tangencies of relevance – where the subject of the book happens to shed light on something important to the Non-Profit world. But this book, written by two Non-Profit business professionals, directly addresses “the what and how” that defines success for Non-Profit organizations. There are two versions of the book: one for membership-based organizations and one for donor-based organizations.


The heart of the book is comprised of twenty-five questions that C-Level readers are asked to answer.  Evaluations of where the organization falls on a spectrum of five maturity levels based upon the answers are offered to each responder. But this is only the beginning of a process that grows in meaning as it seeks consensus among the leadership of the organization. At each point in the process, impressions are transformed into numbers in keeping with the requirement that to progress you must measure, and that numbers make thinking explicit. These are two attributes central to the method of successful forecasters treated in the companion review of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction.


The ultimate maturity level is to become predictive, and the most important thing to predict is your own data. In a world crowded with sounds and sights, most of them coming from screens, physical books slow things down and allow you to listen to a single voice. In the case of this book, the voice you listen to is your own as you answer the questions. Looking inward and reaching consensus does due diligence on your goals, your strategy for reaching them, and ultimately your execution, which should be predictive if everything is aligned, by keeping prominent in the words of the book “a snapshot of where you may be versus where you need to be.”


The aim is to cultivate a continuous learning organization that turns transition into continuous performance improvement.


These are high-level how-to books for Non-Profit organizations.  You can get a copy by clicking here:


Raphael Badagliacca is a Business Development Executive at ASI (Advanced Solutions International).