When I was little, my gran used to take me into town for a drink with her friends. I’d sit in the British Home Stores café playing with whatever toy she’d bought me from Poundland, while she’d chat with her friends about the kind of things grans would chat about.
What her next door neighbour has been up to.
The weather playing havoc with knees.
How the old times were better.
At some point during the chat, the same topic would always pop up:
“Hasn’t Ash grown?”
The general opinion was that, yes, I had grown.
Of the four people asked, all four agreed.
The data spoke for itself.
But if you’d opened that question up to 10 people, or 100, or 1,000, the data might have looked different.
Some people might have (quite rightly) said that, since last week, I hadn’t grown that much at all. Some might have said I actually looked a little smaller.
The data would have been divided, with maybe only 60% of people thinking I’d grown, which is a much less quotable stat.
In an industry where data seems to have more value than a decent idea, it’s worth asking where that data has come from, and whether it really means anything when you look closer at the numbers.
Is the data telling you something useful, or are you seeing the facts you want to see?
Are you asking people what they think, or are you putting thoughts into their heads?
Is your data taken from a coffee table of grans, who’d agree with anything if it meant they could give me a kiss on my cheek?