We’ve all seen them and even used them – catchy statistics. If the phrase “95% of users experienced positive results” made you click on something, raise your hand. Yes, we even admit to using them in our service promotional materials, like saying, “Every crucial conversation employees avoid wastes $1,500 per day.” Setting the past aside and focusing on the present and future, in this Blog, we will take a deeper look at why we need statistics, the potential problem with them, and our takeaways based on our real-world experience and education (with a bonus takeaway at the end).
Why We Need Statistics
Statistics provide evidence to support informed decision-making, sound judgments, and actions. They can also assist in the marketing of goods or services.
The Potential Problem With Statistics
Whether intentional or not, there exists the possibility of misleading statistics. Statistics can be manipulated or presented in a way that misrepresents the truth to sway opinion or gain an advantage in business. Some of the more common ways in which statistics can be misleading:
- Through selective data – when the data used supports a specific argument or viewpoint while ignoring contradictory data.
- Use of correlation (the relationship between two variables) versus causation (a direct cause-and-effect relationship). Just because two variables are correlated does not mean one causes the other. An example is a statistic that says drinking tea increases diabetes by 50% (correlation) while forgetting the amount of sugar put in the tea (causation).
- Use of misleading graphs or charts. Manipulation of visual representations can make data appear more favorable or significant than it is.
- The sample size is too small or unrepresentative. A small sample size may not accurately reflect the opinions or behavior of a larger population, while an unrepresentative sample may overemphasize certain groups or biases.
- To ensure that the research (data collection) and analysis (statistics) are not skewed or biased, find out as much as possible for both aspects. Consider the perspective of the statistic presented, and while you may wind up on a trip “down the rabbit hole,” doing your research will help validate the statistic.
- Carefully examine any visuals used to relay the statistic. Ensure the data is represented accurately through the scales and axes used in charts or graphs.
Remember to stop and think about the perspective when viewing statistics. Be vigilant in evaluating statistics and look beyond the numbers to understand the full context of the presented data. By being critical information consumers, we can avoid being misled and make better decisions based on accurate information.
The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” can be applied to catchy statistics and communication within a business. While this Blog was directly related to perspectives concerning statistics, we know that different perspectives can impact business operations. Although we are not experts at uncovering whether a statistic is sound, we are experts at helping you gain clarity and focus on how team member perspectives (and resulting communication problems) may be damaging business operations and what to do about it.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca, a Spanish dramatist and poet, wrote,
“In this treacherous world
Nothing is the truth nor a lie.
Everything depends on the color
Of the crystal through which one sees it.”
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In a 30-minute complimentary conversation, we can determine if we can help and if we are a good fit to work together. Thirty minutes may not seem like a lot, but we are skilled at fostering conversations to advance solutions that make sense for you and your organization. Visit our Contact Us page to schedule a time to connect.