Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics, Really? I beg to differ!
Editors Corner | The CEO Show | The CEO Magazine
It never ceases to amaze me how people literally torture statistics and if I am not mistaken even Al Qaeda could not better the methods. It is so pervasive that even Bashir Al Asad of Syria would be comforted knowing that he is not the worst of them all. Not a single day goes by when 'statistics' are not tortured to reveal insights that do not exist. They are probably water boarded multiple times and hung upside down to give these manic torturers (oops ...writers) something to write about - just to score a point with their media bosses.
Why can't we leave statistics alone? They never lie. Yet the facade is so ubiquitous, indelible, and consummate that the average Joe or Jane has literally no clue, and they buy the story line lock, stock and barrel, pretty much every time. End result over a period of time is always the same. Blame the victim. Statistics are unreliable and always to be discounted… is the sad verdict.
To me this is sacrilegious. There are very few things in the world as reliable as statistics. We just do not know what to do with them or to make of them. In our hunger for insights we torture them to spin the secrets to great mysteries out of thin air. And then go back and blame the poor fellow.
Take the case of a recent Australian study that created incredible brouhaha with its findings. Here is how the media reported the study…
Having three children a career killer for women, research paper shows
Working Moms: Women With Three Children Less Likely To Have Jobs Than Those With Two, Study Says
Women, having 3rd child can kill your career
The truth of the finding is very simple: 21% of women under age 30 with 3 kids work outside of home and 41% do so if they have 2 kids.
This literally tells you nothing. What about those who are 50 years old? Truth is that the number changes dramatically if you average out… 55% vs 68%. What about the confounding effects of education and experience if you have children early on? What about not wanting to work in the first place? What about people who want to work later? Why do these 'creative insight gatherers' conclude that having 3 children is stopping women from working? Nobody is saying we won’t let you do this or that if you have one more child. This is not China after all that we are talking about. What about Sarah Palin with 5 children? What about Michele Bachmann and Nancy Pelosi with 4 and 5 kids respectively.
Why do people have to scurry around the water fountain talking about these studies and then stop talking to women with 3 children right after the study is released. If they hear 3 children… they don’t even ask where you work? This is ridiculous.
I call this the "Glory Theory". It is my glorious theory of the day to pronounce and proclaim….what ever gets the fancy of the media.
The problem does not stop at that. Statistical torture is responsible for a whole gamut of useless books on business and self help. Unfortunately, the so called average Joe or Jane is not trained enough to discern the right from the extrapolation or interpolation. Be warned… statistics do not like Pseudo Statisticians do.
But more reasonably, you can make a bad choice based on faulty logic and you could be in god’s dog house for a long time. In the present times there is a lot of statistical evidence for almost everything. There is no reason not to put on the seat belt or drink and drive or not engage with a recruiter, or not fire the non performers, or not invest in processes… the list can go on and on. No wonder 90% of all businesses fail with in 10 year of starting up.
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