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Research note on hope 1: Probability

What was your favourite topic at school and how has it influenced your leadership skills?

Mine was probability and statistics in mathematics, particularly, the difference between “probability” and “odds” (and confidence interval).

If a racehorse runs 100 races and wins 25 times and loses the other 75 times, the probability of winning is 25/100 = 0.25 or 25%, but the odds of the horse winning are 25/75 = 0.333 or 1 win to 3 losses.


I am asking because I am currently doing doctoral research on the role of hope in managing a difficult conversation and looking at the ‘perceived possibility effect’.

What has it got to do with probability?

Here’s the thing: a possibility implies a non-zero probability! There’s a clear distinction between possibility and probability.

Probability is a perceived anticipated expected outcome.

Possibility is hope for an outcome, a perception of the mere possibility of an outcome.

There’s a psychologically significant distinction.

Are you with me?

So in the context of managing a difficult conversation, you may well have a perceived expected outcome of that conversation, yet without hope you might not achieve the expected outcome. You see, you need hope when managing a difficult conversation.

Let me be clear: hope is a strength.

Why? Research shows that a’ hoper’

  • is more resistant and resilient to negative feedback
  • is likely to be prudent by taking care that his or her efforts are not wasted or jeopardises others

What can you do to build yourself as a ‘hoper’? What difference could it make to the conversation that you are having as a leader?


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