ALFA hosted 150 executives committed to advancing excellence in senior living at the ALFA 2013 Senior Living Leadership Forum last October in Las Vegas. For two days, plus a half day of pre-conference events, senior living executives sought solutions to the biggest challenges in facing the fast-growing senior living business, forged new relationships, and left with plenty of solutions to put to work back home.
Jeffrey Ma shared anecdotes about his card counting days in Las Vegas and made his case for using data in the business world.
Here’s what they learned from math whiz Jeffrey Ma, who spoke to a packed room about his card counting talents and more.
In the mid 1990s, Ma was leading the Massachusetts Institute of Technology blackjack team, using card counting and other techniques to beat casinos around the world. He was the basis for the main character in the book Bringing Down the House and the movie 21. A serial entrepreneur, Ma’s latest high-tech endeavor is TenXer, a tool designed to optimize employee performance, progress, and productivity.
Losing tests our confidence, our conviction, and our ability to deal with future risk, said Ma. And even though his gut told him not to make the bets that lost him $100,000, he trusted the data and he’d do it again. Ma recovered from that loss and has since parlayed his expertise into coaching corporations (Ford and McDonald’s, for example) on using data and metrics to build their brand and maintain customer loyalty. At the ALFA Forum, in a lively talk that was both inspiring and entertaining, Ma shared his story of losing $100,000 in two hands and what that experience taught him.
Numbers are the key to analyzing nearly everything in the world of business, according to Ma. Many people just don’t like data, he said. “They don’t like stats, but they do have data stored up in their minds. Really, they just hate when data is used incorrectly.”
Unfortunately, as humans, we often rely on gut feelings and ignore what the data is telling us. “People have omission bias,” said Ma, “and they tend to favor inactivity over activity.” In other words, people avoid risk and sit on their hands while opportunity walks by.
Ma encouraged Forum participants to invest in collecting, managing, and mining data to improve operations, better meet market needs, and invest in growth. Don’t give in to the “fallacy of gut feelings,” he said. “If you have data, use data to make decisions.”
“Data decides the argument,” Ma concluded, but “don’t be blind.” When using data to make decisions, you still have to ask yourself “does it make sense?”
Ma recently published a book, The House Advantage, which reveals his cutting-edge mathematical insights into the world of statistics and makes them applicable to a wide business audience.
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