Enlightened Conflict

nights bigger than imagining

June 2nd, 2017

stars and night sky

—————

 

“And the nights, bigger than imagining: black and gusty and enormous, disordered and wild with stars.”

 

—–

Donna Tartt

 

===============

 

“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”

 

T.S. Eliot

 

==========

 

 

Well.

 

stars and planets at nightDespite the fact most nights remain the same amount of hours, minutes and seconds day to day a sleepless night can often look bigger than imagined. I have found that sleepless nights are less about restless minds and more about capacity in a squeezed space.

 

Huh?

 

Let me tackle squeezed first.

 

In general the world is a pretty vast place and our lives can seem fairly inconsequential. The good news about this is that within all that vastness there is a lot of room to let some of the more horrible or horribly mundane crap just slip by.

 

The bad news occurs when all of a sudden Life, and the world, shrinks and you feel squeezed. And this can happen a lot easier than one may think.

 

Ponder what I am going to say as “the big squeeze.”

 

Everyday everyone faces some naturally occurring ‘shrinking’ aspects which in and of themselves can’t shrink your Life enough to matter. Let’s just say this is the daily grind of work, chores and family & Life commitments. Some things go well and some things don’t.sometimes the smallest things

And then, of course, there will be a day or two where the things that “don’t” significantly outnumber the things that “do.” because this is day to day shit I view this as getting squeezed from the sides. They kind of suffocate you a little.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

And then there will be some days where you have that ad hoc shit you have to plan to get done … the faucet is dripping, the car engine light is on, someone hit the mailbox, crap like that. 95% of the time this kind of shit never goes as planned. It takes too long or it doesn’t get done right the first time or … well … suffice it to say … the easy stuff never gets done as easily as you would want.

And then, of course, there will be a day or two where the things that never get done as easily as you want actually end up just not going right. This is stupid little shit … but maybe think about it as maybe getting squeezed from underneath – an unexpected aggravating shift on the ground below you.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

And then there will be some days where you turn on the TV or maybe scan the internet news breaks and … well … some shit has hit the fan. Your country has made some monumental decision that seems to shift its place in the world.

Some nutjob terrorist has committed some heinous act to innocent people.

Some “thing” happens that feel like a shift in the bedrock of ‘what is.’ It may not directly affect you but you sense that it is a monumental thing which will most likely affect you <even though you aren’t sure how yet>. This is big shit … this just makes you feel a little like the weight of the world has gotten a little heavier and the world as you have known it has become a little murkier. You are getting squeezed from above.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

life big squeeze

 

Now.

 

I will now get to capacity.

 

Let’s assume on one day all there of things happen … you get squeezed all on one day. Oddly, this becomes a test of your capacity <which implies largeness>. And, yes, maybe it is about largeness. As in how large you can remain as you get squeezed.

 

Some nights it isn’t easy to not get suffocated.

Other nights you find your capacity and push back a little.

Most nights you find just enough largeness to not get … well … too little.

 

But the nights in which all three aspects I outlined squeezed you I would suggest … well … the word ‘forlorn’ comes to mind.

 

====================

 

“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”

 

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

=============

 

I use forlorn because I associate it with capacity as I am discussing it today.

Forlorn has a sense of shrinking to it in that the good in Life seems to shrink forlorn bird in a cage squeezeand that which is bad seems to grow and you are left with that wretched forlorn feeling which dogs you throughout a sleepless night. Forlorn seems like it is more appropriate than lonely or lonesome in that it specifically embraces a senses of wretchedness and desertion or abandonment … in my mind … ‘despairing of the arrival of a friend … in this case … a friend called Hope.”

 

To me … all of what I just shared with regard to squeezing and capacity captures the essence of the worst of the worst sleepless nights.

And, if I were a betting man, I would bet we have all had a few of these.

 

Ok.

Here is what I know.

 

Most of us get through these nights. Despite the vast emptiness of a night, more vast than we imagined it should be, we cast about among the chaos of the stars and find some light.

I like to think of it as we clamber through the clouds and exist.

 

===============

 

“I will clamber through the clouds and exist.”

 

—-

John Keats

 

==============

And the outcome of most of these nights, in addition to being tired, is out of the gauntlet of forlornness we seem to come out with a degree of hope. point where too tired despair night get to work

 

Hope for a better day <at minimum> and maybe Hope for something better <at maximum>.

 

In other words, out of the bigness which seems to squeeze us if but for a moment we rummage through a sleepless night … one black and gusty and enormous, disordered and wild with stars … and come out a little less black, a little more calm, a little more ordered and a little more focused on some star.

 

 

the science, and the lost art, of ROI

May 24th, 2017

choices-path-shopping-direction-decisions

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“… businesses want answers right away and many times high statistical reliability is not worth the cost it takes to achieve it.

 

Insights that point decision-makers to go “left” or “right” is innately good enough. Leaders are oftentimes not willing to pay for “turn left at a 30 degree angle” or “turn right at an 115 degree angle” because it may cost too much money and takes far too long to obtain those precise next steps through drawn-out methodologies.”

 

—–

Kuhn

 

==================

 

“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

 

=

John Dewey

 

==============

 

“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

 

============

 

Well.

 

fire water contradiction ideas thinkThis is about how ROI gets abused in decision making and I am writing about that because the Trump administration issued their “national budget proposal” <which I fully acknowledge is simple a guideline of the administration’s desires> and immediately started ponying up all their “we made cuts where there was no evidence of appropriate results” justifications.

 

Some of those justifications are terrifying.

Some of their choices are terrifying.

 

As for the budget plan?  As one writer put it … “the math is terrifying.”

 

Cutting Medicaid would be devastating for all low-income Americans, but particularly for women and mothers: 45 percent of childbirths in the U.S. were funded by Medicaid in 2010, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump’s budget also cuts funding for after-school programs for children and support for domestic violence victims.

 

I am going to let other people tear apart the incredibly short sighted Trump budget plan <which, yes, has scraps of good ideas> and I will focus on the criteria it appears they focused on <excepting the parental leave initiative which was like placing a half-eaten M&M on top of a turd> — budget by ROI.

 

Budgeting by ROI.

 

Whew.

 

 

This provides me with another excuse to blast my generation of business leaders and how their misguided thinking has screwed up not only how business is conducted, in general, but how we think about business. Specifically about ROI … these hollow men hollowed out business of any of the ‘art’ and color which is associated with thriving businesses which contribute to society & cultural norms leaving at an empty husk of dollars & cents and black & white ROI decisions.

 

Look.

 

roi einstein

I am all for analysis and love quantitatively judging tactics and initiatives. But I also understand that <1>  numbers often do not always tell the entire story and <2> we far too often judge ROI on one specific outcome without assessing some value on some ‘ripple effect’ outcomes.

 

But, first, the numbers and ROI.

 

I wrote back in February that numbers have lost their mojo  … yeah … well … I still believe that … just in a different context.

 

In this case we are dealing with a generation of business people who have completely bastardized the use of numbers – stripping them of anything but the false veneer of what they call “simplistic stark truth.”

Now. ‘Simplistic stark truth’ sounds good … and it sounds really good in the business world.

 

And, yet, in this starkness there is found falseness. The falseness can be found in its lack of imagination, its lack of depth and its lack of seeing anything but ‘what can be measured.’

 

This stupid view of numbers wreaks havoc when viewing ROI analysis.

 

Now … back on November 13th 2016 I wrote about the Trump administration as the last stand of the old white men  <the business generation I continuously skewer> and discussed hollowness. And while I outlined a number of ‘hollow’ things which can be blamed on this generation in that piece I neglected to point one out — the hollowing of ROI.

 

————–

 

ROI.

 

ROI <return on investment> is a fabulous tool. It offers us every day unimaginative pragmatic schmucks an almost heuristic way to judge some fairly complex and complicated things in business.

 

But old white men hollowed ROI of anything intangible and along the way scraped away some of the most meaningful things associated with investment in their desire for simplistic “this led to that.” Certainly some investments have linear outcomes and results. But not all. And these hollow men in their black & white pursuit of profit, efficiency and outcomes became color blind.  Old white men started looking at people as equal to numbers & dollars and not organic organisms of less than linear productivity <in terms of Life actualization as well as business actualization>. These hollow men fell in love with numbers and began diminishing the value of humanity.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

—————-

.......... hollow men making hollow decisions ......

………. hollow men making hollow decisions ……

Well.

 

I could argue this all happened because ROI analysis permitted a shortcut for business people — a thinking & decision making shortcut.

It permitted, and encouraged, an entire generation to not have to really think but rather fallback on “that’s what the analysis said.”

 

That is plain and simple lazy fucking business … not smart solid business.

 

I will not argue that a good ROI analysis can offer a quick spontaneous glimpse of truth viable snapshot … in fact … it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who stated that the growth of intellect is spontaneous.

 

Of course, he hadn’t been bludgeoned with measurement, ROI and data driven decisions.

 

Of course, he was also on the one who stated … what is the hardest task in the world? To think. And. We are all wise. The difference between create destroy pencilpersons is not in wisdom but in art.

 

And that is where Trump and his merry band of old white men doing this whole budget thing are most aggravating.

 

It is not that they cannot envision the art of decision making but rather they purposefully abstain from the art of decision making <and focus solely on ROI>.

 

It is not that they are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas at the same time but rather they purposefully choose to ignore one idea or thought for the one most supported by the science of ROI.

 

 

It is not that they are oblivious to the qualitative nature & benefits of budgetary decision but rather they avoid the more difficult defense of the qualitative to utilize the more easy, and lazy, rationale of the quantitative.

 

I don’t blame them specifically <although it is their budget blueprint> but it is the unfortunate legacy of that entire generation to do those things.

 

All that said.

 

While ROI seems a straightforward way to analyze … ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly tricky … but when done well it can inform some great insightful decisions and ideas.

 

ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly painful … like having the devil screaming at you type painful … and even when done well tends to dull <not sharpen> the good ideas.

 

==============

 

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

 

—-

F. Scott Fitzgerald

==============

 

But ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

This seem o be our “how we conduct business handbook” these days.

philosophical-discovering-gravity

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery and the value of … well … the benefit of the benefit <I spent money which created ‘x’ outcome … which enabled this other ‘x’ outcome>.

 

We seem to have culturally decided consciously to … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ? Let me use a quote from Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

 

 

 

“…in the hands of politicians grand designs achieve nothing but new forms of the old misery…”

 

 

 

In our failure of imagination in our analysis of existing programs and initiatives we come up with grand designs begetting new forms of old misery. But what makes today and this budget worse? These are supposed to be fucking business people and not politicians in place making these ‘grand designs’ <isn’t that what some people voted for with Trump?>.

 

I admit.

 

I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward with regard to budgeting tough-choices-shopping-decisions-lifeand programs and policies and deciding what we should do to better America..

 

I am wary because I see little moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ other than bludgeoning people with simplistic harsh solutions and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

I am wary because I see men of a generation who bastardized ROI analysis applying their own bastardized version of ROI thinking to people’s lives <under the guise of “applying it to people’s money/taxes” — no, they are not the same>.

 

I am a business guy.

 

I cannot envision running a business, or a government, without solid measurement, ROI & budgeting rigor.

 

But I also know from running a business with hundreds of employees that the greatness of an organization does not reside solely in some number … or some ROI analysis.

 

==========

 

“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world.

 

===============

 

I tend to believe most of us every day schmucks recognize that ROI is part of doing business and insuring our hard earned money/taxes is used effectively.

But I also believe that most of us every day schmucks also realize that some things just cannot be measured solely by numbers.

 

 

I worry that this Trump administration is reflective of the lost art of ROI family choices tough decisions aheadanalysis and the value of discovery

 

In their love of money as ‘winning’ they have lost sight of the value of seeking what is beyond the horizon. They have devalued imagination to such a point that they most likely define imagination as measurable in an ROI analysis. In other words they take ideas and thoughts, even ones with no history, and embrace them not by saying “what if” and “what could be” but rather by grinding it through some veg-o-matic ROI machine to assess its true value.

 

And that, my friends, is how they came up with their “blueprint for a national budget.”

 

And that, my friends, is how they plan on running this country and making their decisions.

 

And that, my friends, is not how America does business … because it shows a failure of imagination and it is imagination, not ROI analysis, which drives real change and progress.

 

—————–

 

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

 

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

 

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

=

 

Baum

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one of the saddest business things I have read in quite some time

May 5th, 2017

sad numbers hear listen business

==============

 

“Where there is little risk, there is little reward.”

 

Evel Knievel

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So.

 

I don’t read Advertising Age often. I never really enjoyed reading ‘insider industry’ magazines and now that I am not involved with agencies that much it doesn’t mean much to me except an opportunity to catchup on the news of some people and places I know.

free-bad-advice-business-blog-contrarian

But today a link popped up in my email:

 

 

What’s the Most Risky Thing You’ve Done in Your Career?

Ad Age Asks Participants at Detroit Brand Summit

—-

 

I clicked on it.

 

I figured the advertising business, while often ground down to a nub by brand managers and clients who have an allergic reaction to risk, would offer some good ‘most risky actions I have taken‘ stories.

 

Here is a sampling:

 

 

biggest risk was undertaking Pepsi “refresh project,” a 2010 initiative by PepsiCo to award $20 million in grants to individuals, businesses and nonprofits that promote a new idea that has a positive impact on their community. “We took money off the Super Bowl, a property Pepsi had been on for almost a quarter century, and we put it into a different idea,”

 

 

Tylenol talking about product benefits and pain relief. His team, however, advocated toward making the message about feeling better with a nontraditional campaign including events.

 

 

single biggest gamble: “Leaving BBDO to go to The Abundancy, which was a little startup incubator that was trying to do things differently and reinvent how advertising worked,”

 

 

“It was a first-ever auto reveal with Snapchat,” Lenard said. “Together we answered a lot of questions internally about who is the audience of Snapchat: Aren’t they 12-year-olds who are never buying vehicles?”

 

——————–

 

Ok.

 

I worked in the advertising agency business for a long time … that is oh no embarrassedembarrassing.

 

If that is risk, let alone ‘biggest risk’, in today’s advertising world as outlined by some people who I assume are leaders in the industry … the industry is in a world of hurt.

 

As a business person I have always embraced the concept of risk … okay … calculated risk. No sane business person is flippant with risk.

All risk is assessed and calculated for ROR <return on risk> … as well as RODN <return on doing nothing>.

 

I could argue that between ROR and RODN you aren’t really taking any risks … you are simply doing what needs to be done to be successful.

 

That said.

I was sorely disappointed by how these people assess ‘biggest risk.’

 

Look.

 

avoid question bomb stink business problemsEveryone takes personal risks in business.

 

Not everyone takes business risks. And business risk is very different than personal risk … confusing the two, or even conflating the two, in a business environment is fraught with peril.

 

Yes.

Business risks inherently include personal risk … but personal risks don’t have particular consequences to a larger business risk – they are more your risks than anyone else’s.

 

I say that as a professional calculated business risk taker. I can honestly say that any time I ever assessed a business decision or what could be construed as a business risk I never took into consideration any persona risk I may be assuming. To me it would simply clutter what I would assume is a decision cluttered already with ‘what ifs’, ‘maybes’ and ‘uh ohs.’

 

I always believe business risks revolved around what is best for the business … and you let the chips fall as they may with regard to you personally.

 

Now.

 

Getting back to that sad list of ‘biggest risks.’

 

People can confuse risk with change. Change is change. Any change includes some risk because … well … it is change.

But change, in and of itself, is not necessarily originality. And that is where risk truly resides … in something original.

 

============

 

“Safe marketing is the riskiest marketing you can do.”

 

—-

Bill Bernbach

 

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organization business elephant adpat nimble get shit done

Anything original is never safe simply because it has no real record of behavior & consequences. That means you are modeling and researching and doing a whole bunch of good smart shit to insure it isn’t just a guess … but … sigh … it is just a guess.

 

That is risk. Risk is a … well … thing.

 

Originality is a real thing … a challenging thing … and a risky thing.

And to be truly original … in some ways … you must ignore what exists and what has been done before.

 

You must abandon the safe and secure.

 

Just think about this little factoid about pretty much any great original idea that has ever happened:

 

  • It’s effective

 

  • It’s always preceded by a meeting in which you will hear ‘are you nuts?’

 

Well.

 

Maybe we all need to be a little more nuts.

Maybe we all need to be a little less afraid of the different.

 

Maybe instead we should focus on what I believe almost all business people really do know … the new and untried can generate the bigger gains then simply changing the status quo or ‘what is’.

 

I would note that originality has a close relationship to exceptional.

 

Ah.

The root of that word exceptional?

 

Exception <please note … that is a significantly different word than acceptable … or safe …>.

 

We are comfortable in our cocoon of what is acceptable and sameness but it is making ‘an exception’ … taking that slightly risky step … that truly pays off.

 

used rainbowsIn business … if you have nothing to offer but used ideas, you are just a used car salesman.

 

And does anyone in business really want to be that?

 

<unless they are in the used car sales business of course>

 

And maybe that is why the article I read was one of the saddest business articles I have read in a very long time – there really wasn’t anything original or any monumental change. Some were personal risks and the business risks were more tweaks on existing machinery to fine tune the operation.

And maybe that is what the business world has come to <sadly> … a world in which tweaks constitute risks.

 

Sad. Very sad.

 

I know risk is difficult. But I also know it is much better than always doing the sure thing – always making the safe decision.

 

The problem is if you really want any progress or growth … meaningful progress and growth … risk cannot be avoided. You must seek ‘the exception.’

 

In the end.

 

I do think business needs to embrace a little more risk.

 

But to avoid being sad about what we do, maybe most importantly, I think business should stop calling tweaks risky. They are tweaks. They are attempts to make small big and the truly big too small.

 

And, lastly, maybe we need to start thinking more often “but it might just work.” I wrote about that phrase to make a point about how we, in business, are becoming far too hesitant to make changes.  There was nothing in the ‘biggest risk taken’ article that convinced me my point isn’t still valid. We embrace tweaks to avoid “but it might just work” actions.

 

 

“Biggest risk ever taken.”

road to success business graffiti

 

 

Shit.

 

These should be monumental type questions with monumental type responses.

 

And if you don’t have a monumental response maybe, just maybe, you need to look around what what you are doing and seeing of maybe you aren’t playing it too safe.

And, most of all, if you don’t have a monumental response, you should not try and make something small monumental.

 

Bigger risk deserves better than that.

using numbers to make decisions

February 2nd, 2017

 

Numbers are good

============

 

 

“We should always bear in mind that numbers represent a simplification of reality.”

 

 

—-

Kenneth E. Boulding

============

 

So.

 

This is the partner piece to “Numbers are losing their Mojo.”

 

steal my mojo

 

It is the partner piece because while numbers are losing their mojo … more and more people in business want numbers to make their decision for them.

 

And while I could point to the overwhelming amount of data <numbers> now being cranked out as the reason why this issue is reaching a business crisis level … I will not.

The truth is that all big data does is amplify the situation – more and more business people suck at making decisions, suck at assuming personal responsibility for decisions and suck at thinking thru the true meaning of the numbers available to them <as a version of what I said yesterday — suck at seeing the real shadows of the numbers>.

 

And just as the fact we need to get our shit together with regard to telling the stories that numbers truly tell us <rather than do shit guided by ‘instinct’ an ‘what we feel’> we need to get our shit together with regard to how we use numbers to INFORM decisions and not MAKE decisions.

 

It gains importance because in today’s world it isn’t just ‘big data’ but it is analyzing research, spreadsheets, hell, just the everyday numbers that overwhelm you in the everyday standard operating procedures in business.go on tell me understand

 

We need to be teaching that not all 2’s are created equal <not all numbers are created equal> and that even though a number may be big, or even small, just counting it doesn’t mean it counts.

 

We need to be teaching young business people that what counts is what the numbers say … as in ‘what do they express’.

 

Here is the truth about numbers.

 

Numbers, more often than not, are simply directional signs toward truth … but rarely do they tell the truth in their simplicity. Okay. They rarely tell the whole truth.

And they never are a substitute for judgement.

 

I sometimes fear on occasion we are crafting a generation of business people who view numbers as the answer for everything.

 

==============

“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”

 

David Ogilvy

==============

 

To be fair … this is not the younger generation’s problem … it is more a leadership & management issue.

 

marketing must improve betterWe absolutely have reached a point in business, in particular within organizations of any critical size, where risk is a swear word. And even if you take the risk you are putting your job on the line. With all that hanging over heads you do grab onto a lamp post whenever you can spot one.

 

And, let’s face it; numbers are strewn throughout whatever street you decide to walk upon so, if needed, one is always available to show to explain your decision.

 

It is up to older managers to teach the nuances and how to use numbers to inform the final judgements.

 

But it is quite possible we could live with this if this is all that was happening.

 

The other thing that should strike fear into the hearts of businesses is how older managers, overwhelmed with all the ‘big data’ available … and younger people  who easily rummage through all the data available … combine to, with mostly good intentions, seek numbers to find out what to do next.

 

They do not translate what the numbers mean but use actual numbers as directional signs on where to go next.

This is dangerous.

Now.

Someone will say “no, it is not dangerous, as long as you know the objective.”

 

”Wrong” is what I would say back.

 

For them to be right they have to assume that the best path toward the objective is the straightest line possible.

Well.

If I am a commodity product or service or maybe even the lowest price product or service <and, remember, there can only be one lowest price in any category> this could possibly be true, however, if “value” enters into any discussion with regard to what you are doing or what you are selling … the straightest path may not be what you want … or need.

 

To be clear. What I just typed … what I just shared … rarely is discussed in today’s business world. Why? Well … first … anything that suggests “not fast” or the dark days bad days sad black hole life“not optimal speed” suggests ‘less than efficient’ which in today’s world is “bad.”

 

<or “sad”>

 

Second … to discuss value in this way sounds … uhm … complex or complicated … and if there are two words that could be construed as swear words in today’s business world it would be those two. simplicity, at the expense of anything and everything else, is the go-to place for a shitload of business people and , in particular, business people who would like numbers to tell them what to do.

 

 

Anyway.

 

Yesterday I suggested number are losing their mojo.

 

Today I am suggesting business people may not be using numbers in the most do what you must by Yoshiterueffective way <to maximize the benefit of the organization, product or service>.

 

And tomorrow I will not be writing about numbers … but I can tell ya that numbers will still be misused and misdiscussed.

 

And we better figure that out soon or businesses are gonna get screwed.

 

how numbers have lost their mojo

February 1st, 2017

numbers 2 pencil truth facts learning

 

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“When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading books.

You will be reading meanings.”

 

E. B. Du Bois

==============

 

“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

============

 

“There are no facts anymore, everything is twisted by corporate greed.

Scientific research, social policy, economic forecasts … nothing can be held as factual.

 

————-

Some everyday schmuck commenting on an online article

 

===========

 

So.

 

2 plus 2 numbers truth factsOnce we got past 2 plus 2 equals 4 in school almost every single one of us started learning that all numbers contain shadows.

 

And that within that shadow resided their true meaning.

Let’s call that shadow ‘the value of the number.’

 

Yeah.

 

2 may be 2 but once you get into the real world your 2’s can become a ‘solid 2’ or maybe a “just 2” or even a “2 but really 2.2”.

 

Face it.

If you have been in the business world for any length of time you cannot remember the last time that 2 was simply 2 when presented in some meeting.

 

And then let me give you the more complex example of ‘the shadow.’

 

An expert can offer a number, a statistic or data driven conclusion, and it can be dismissed as ignoring the emotional feelings and angst of the people it i am too sad to walkrepresents <let’s call that the emotional investment & value within the number itself>. And within that dismissal the cold harsh truth becomes a non truth.

 

<sad.>

 

And here is where it gets even trickier … I can flip the discussion around and discuss emotional investment <pick your poison on this> and then find a number to validate it <flawed “if this then that” logic>. And within that reversed logic I am just as likely to create a ‘truth’ from some numbers that is in reality a ‘non truth’ as I am to create a what is in actuality a real gosh darn truth.

 

I decided to write about this because numbers are in a battle for their lives – in business and in society. And it would behoove us to insure that numbers actually won this battle.

 

Without numbers we will enter a world where someone can simply say “I believe what I believe” and “feelings mater more than facts” and that somehow becomes as valid as something that is actually provable.

 

Regardless.

 

Going back to the harsh truth of numbers in real Life … whether we like it or not numbers are rarely just numbers.

If you have any desire to use numbers and actually win any debate using the numbers you <a> have to believe they all have a shadow and <b> believe if you do not look into the shadows you will fail to understand what truth is.

 

I know.

I know.

Some of you may be scratching your head going “gosh, I don’t know if I buy this.”

 

Just think about the last business meeting you were in where someone number pops up on the screen at the front of the conference room and one of two things happen:questions make cry

 

<1> the presenter says “let me tell you what this numbers means”, or,

 

<2> someone sitting at the table says “tell us what that number represents <means>.

 

And, yes, up on the screen … most likely bolded and in some nifty color … is a nice simple clear number. Let’s say 122. Okay. Don’t like that? How about 7? It doesn’t matter. It is a solid number we all know and recognize.

 

And, yet, there are always questions.

 

It sucks but numbers aren’t just numbers and maybe worse … numbers do not speak simply nor do they tell their own story.

 

And because they cannot tell their own story it becomes up to <gulp> humans to tell their story for them.

 

Oh.

 

How I imagine how numbers cringe at how their stories are told.

 

Statisticians, who most likely know more about numbers stories than anyone else, are not natural story tellers and therefore they strip the narrative of anything likeable and bare the numbers for what they are and nothing more.

 

And, as I noted in the opening, this strips numbers of emotion <and emotion is what people are most likely to connect with>. this leaves their audiences sitting there … well … kind of crafting their own story in their own head.

 

Now.

Seeing these relatively important numbers, stripped of emotion, you will then see a slew of non statisticians scramble towards the microphone to cry out what is missing in the numbers presented.

fate

In an absurd twist of fate numbers far too often have stolen from them the one true strength that they have to offer us — the ability to discuss things as a whole, not on the basis of anecdote, sentiment or prejudice, but in ways that can be validated.

 

In theory, numbers should help settle arguments not create them.

 

In theory, numbers should help to offer clarity not create confusion <or doubt>.

 

In theory, numbers should provide stable reference points that everyone – no matter what your opinion – can agree on.

 

In practicality, in today’s world, numbers are in the midst of a trust battle.

That, my friends, is bizarre.

 

A number is a number.

 

2 + 2 = 4.

 

Numbers should be the starkest truth society can have – shadow or not.

sad numbers hear listen business

And, yet, study after study suggests that people believe that whomever is offering the number of the day is using it to actually hide something.

 

In fact, rather than eliminating doubt, numbers appear to actually be encouraging controversy and doubt

This is crazy if not truly bizarre.

 

Think about it for a second.

 

Numbers have become untrustworthy.

Numbers have become the voice of the arrogant and elite.

Numbers have become the trusted tool of the conspiracy theorist.

 

Has the world turned upside down?

 

Regardless.

 

Numbers are supposed to offer certainty not uncertainty. They are not meant to be defined by their shadow but rather by their body.

 

—-

The word statistics is defined as a discipline that includes procedures and techniques used to collect, process and analyze the numerical data to make inferences and to reach appropriate decision in situation of uncertainty (uncertainty refers to incompleteness, it does not imply ignorance). In this sense word statistic is used in the singular sense. It denotes the science of basing decision on numerical data.

—————

 

 

And maybe that is where numbers need some help. “Statistics” and statisticians imply such a non emotional, impersonal, aspect that the everyday schmuck comes out of the woodwork attacking the fact that people are not numbers numbers 6 degrees<and, yet, numbers can represent people>. For all that numbers offer us in terms of certainty it is a basic Life truth that no one person ever wants to view themselves as a number.

 

That is a fundamental challenge number users & presenters need to face.

Because while it is true, an unequivocal fact,  that the amount of data <numbers> we leave in our trail in everyday Life will grow even greater and that people are represented day in and day out by numbers that sheer overwhelming amount of information will continue to encourage people to suggest that the numbers do not represent … uhm …. “1” … as in me the individual.

 

And number users and presenters better get their heads wrapped around this because it isn’t about trust or certainty … numbers are factual indicators of health, prosperity, equality, opinion and quality of life <pretty much anything important to society & people>.

 

I say that because when non-numbers people start stretching numerical evidence too far, interpret data too loosely or misuse them simply to serve their cause it becomes a hazard to the betterment of everyone <including you & I>.

 

Numbers truly run into problems when they fall into the wretched hollow between representing true evidence and representing speculative forecasting/thinking.

 

Uhm.

Why does that matter?

 

One represents … well … analysis of what is … while the other represents patterns for what could be.

To the everyday schmuck like me I don’t really discern the difference when presented numbers … they are just some fucking numbers to me.

 

All equal.

That is bad.

 

And then … maybe worse?

When we end up in this wretched hollow of only dealing in numbers’ shadows and not the numbers themselves we trigger not only the wholehearted rejection of expertise … but a pervasive attitude that we should reject numbers in totality <and go simply with gut, feelings and opinions>.

 

free-bad-advice-business-blog-contrarianThat is bad.

 

That is wrong.

 

That is dangerous.

 

This battle is occurring between facts <cold hard numbers … the body itself> and feelings <the emotional investment, shadow, of the numbers>.

 

Look.

 

This is a very very important battle going on.

 

While numbers truly have no authority over a decision or conclusion … they actually are tools which we use to make decisions.

We misunderstand numbers sometimes because they do not make the decision for us <although we would love them to>.

Think about this.

 

In decision making numbers are only relevant in the feedback loop of the current activity. If you wish to continue on the path, then the feedback pretty much controls the decision <hence you associate statistics with authority>.

 

If you wish to change the path completely, then the statistics on what happens in the old system have no authority and little relevance.

 

This means that numbers, in general, do not indicate the future only share insights with regard to existing and past behavior.

 

Think about that for one second.

 

You should.

 

Because there are a shitload of politicians, non-numbers people and opinion leaders using numbers to tell us what the future will look like.

truth facts numbers understand question

And maybe that is where I will need. Because there are a shitload of extremely qualified think tanks and experts who use numbers to project, speculate and offer some futuristic thoughts … and yet their ‘thoughts’ are valued sometimes less than the thoughts of non-numbers people <who actually misuse the numbers>.

 

Smart people using smart numbers need to figure that out. Because if they do not … we are screwed. I say that because numbers drive a shitload of decisions.

As I wrote once … the business truth is that theory sells … but numbers runs the reality of business. This is also true for policies & Life.

 

My only suggestion to numbers experts is that they need to stop looking at numbers as numbers and recognize that their future, and the truth, is most likely found in presenting the stories found within the numbers’ shadows well.

 

 

 

Enlightened Conflict