Why You Shouldn't Get Seduced By Numbers

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Which statement is more powerful:

“Working hard can kill you.”

“10,000 workers per year drop dead at their desks as a result of 60- to 70-hour work weeks.”

While both statements are true, adding statistics to the latter argument makes it stronger; numbers are perceived as facts.

But making decisions based on numbers alone isn’t effective.  Numbers are most powerful when they’re paired with interpretation and reasoning. 

“The management-by-numbers game has gained currency [among businesses]…But more and more we’re coming to see that strategy is as much about interpreting as it is about analysing,” says Harvard Business Review’s Roger Martin.

Martin uses shopping for a car as an example.  You should look at mileage and measure interior space, but you should also consider how you feel in the vehicle and the beauty of the design.  Emotions and aesthetics can’t be broken down into numbers, but they’re still important elements in the decision-making process, says Martin.

“The successful strategists of the future will have a holistic, empathetic understanding of customers and be able to convert somewhat murky insights into a creative business model that they can prototype and revise in real time,” says Martin. “To do all that, they’ll have to be good communicators, comfortable with ambiguity and ready to abandon the quest for certain, single-point answers.”

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