I greatly distrust the data I hear. Why? Because the way one presents the data all too often determines the message that the data conveys to the audience. And the less insightful the audience (i.e the more laypersons in the group) the easier it is to spin, spin, spin away.
Scenario 1: Headline
Local school doubles their test scores over last year! YAY!
Scenario 2: Headline
80% of students at local school flunk the test. BOO!
Now, in scenario 1, if you only had 1 out of 10 kids pass last year’s test and this year 2 out of 10 passed the test, you did indeed DOUBLE YOUR TEST scores.
Yet, if only 2 out of 10 kids passed the test, that means 80% of the kids still came up short.
And, as I hope you can see, this “data” has been taken from the same school.
There’s too much wiggle room in the world of data interpretation — because ultimately, in so, so, so many cases, it’s all in how one presents/spins the numbers.
And people who rise to the top in organizations know this very, very well. After all, as many a big kahuna CEO has said in reference to numbers they have been presented, “I don’t want these numbers. Now go out and get me the good data!”
Look behind the numbers at what is being presented at your next staff meeting and I am quite confident your first impression (the one the data presenter intended for you to take) will offer another way entirely to view the numbers if you so choose to take a different route.
And which is correct? Data, like beauty, seems to be in the eye of the beholder.