Have. you ever had a conversation with someone only to find out later that the two of you took away totally different meanings from the exact same conversation? I have found that many times the root of the dis-connect is different definitions of key qualifying terms used in the conversation. The same words can mean vastly different things to different people. This is especially true with words that qualify something in terms of a probable outcome: the Probability Terms. Explicitly stating your own numeric probability assignment for each of the “squishy” terms and communicating that to people ahead of time, can significantly reduce dis-connects and mis understandings. I found this helpful tool to do just that. They have a data set of a couple thousand responses, so the confidence interval of each term fairly represents the range of outcomes you would find in common conversation partners. Listed below are the numerical probabilities I personally assign to each general Probability Term commonly used.

Why this is important when talking about Investments? If I write in a deal memo there is a “Real Possibility” of the company closing a big deal in the next two quarters, what does that really mean? Based on the results of the Probability Survey, the common understanding of “Real Possibility” is between about 38% and 75% numerical probability. That is a huge range! If I am a 38% person talking to a 75% person, we are going to come away with vastly different understandings of the conversation. At Incisive Ventures when I write “Real Possibility”, I have assigned a 57% probability to the outcome. A “Serious Possibility” is 70%. If you ever have any question as to what the EXACT probability of an outcome is when we use one of these terms, please consult this post. Being precise is incisive.

These Probability Terms and the associated numerical probability values are a way to be precise about our opinions of potential outcomes base on our knowledge at the time we make the statement. Of course there is no guarantee we are right. There is always a greater than zero chance of different outcomes. Even when we say something may “Never” happen, we assign a 1% chance that it may. Investing is always a game of incomplete information with a variety of possible outcomes. While we endeavor to be precise, we do not have perfect information on how the future will unfold, no one does.

- Incisive Ventures Probability Terms and associated numerical probabilities:
- Term
- Probability

- Always
- 99

- Certainly
- 97

- Slam Dunk
- 95

- Almost Certainly
- 93

- Almost Always
- 85

- With High Probability
- 80

- Usually
- 77

- Often
- 75

- Serious Possibility
- 70

- Likely
- 67

- Frequently
- 65

- Probably
- 60

- Real Possibility
- 57

- More Often Than Not
- 55

- Possibly
- 51

- With Moderate Probability
- 40

- Maybe
- 35

- Might Happen
- 33

- Not Often
- 30

- Unlikely
- 20

- With Low Probability
- 10

- Rarely
- 5

- Never
- 1

- Term

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