The power of statistics

Statistics and data are very trendy in the business world. It is the thing that makes or breaks decisions. Everybody demands it and we all end up believing it.

So why is statistics so important? It is not meaningful or effective if it’s taken out of its context, which is many times very complex and influencing. It is not even precise. What statistics gives us is something much more important: concrete proof. If we can get statistics to back up a gut feeling we have or a hunch about a situation, we’ve hit the golden pot. We have proof that our story is true, we have decision power and we can get people to listen, because the data backs up the story. No one will trust a manager who has a mere hunch or a gut feeling based on his or her experience. But everybody will start paying attention once the nice graphics come up, graphics that “speak” in numbers.

Why have we traded the power of intuition for the power of numbers? We all know that sometimes the numbers are wrong. Statistics don’t always get it right. But we still choose to trust the numbers, rather than the people. We have lost our trust in people and humanity’s power of intuition.

The reasons are many and complex, but I guess the most obvious one is that we live in an increasingly complex society. Things are not as simple as they were, and as we develop, we tend to make things even more complex. In this context of ever changing complexity, we have lost our grip on instinct and intuition, because there are other things to replace it. Like any evolving species, we have developed into a being that has constantly underused its intuition, to the benefit of other artificial means, such as statistics.

In the end, it’s all about support for leadership: if you can get statistics and data to back up your story, your leadership will be empowered and unchallenged.


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