Old world wisdom, new world insight – poems, poetry, philosophy, dreams, commentary, ideas

What are numbers for? ( 3… 2 … 1 … Lift Off!)

Leave a comment

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Our interactions with numbers
in the twenty-first century
confess a relationship which is akin to a kind of friendship.

Watch out, because if we get too cozy with nicknames for numbers,
we will be forced to tow the line of their significance
and this will just go on and on into infinity.
[nerd joke]

Let’s have a look at how we talk about and interact with numbers,  
including what kinds of names we give them.
We think we are in control, but the names reveal that they have a hold over us.

We give them bombastic titles such as:

  • Trends
  • Receipts
  • Demographics
  • Engagement
  • Metrics
  • Deliverables

These all sound so very intellectual.
Keep in mind, though, that they are only synonyms.
 This is what we labelled them as recently as 15 years ago:

  • Market intelligence
  • Orders Completed
  • Populations
  • Performance
  • Litres/ kilometers/ pallets/ tons
  • Volume

Even for the 1990s, those monikers were too puffy
However, that did not stop us from using futuristic appellations.
The reality is that here, now, are what our business numbers truly stand for:

  • Competitor Sales and Contact information
  • Units Sold
  • Customers who buy and Contact information
  • Measures of Products Sold
  • Total Sales in Dollars

These days we even presume we can do certain things – funny and irregular things – to numbers.  
This, as if we could squeeze out some perceived or hoped-for value. 
Such as:

  1. Unpack them
  2. Make them robust
  3. Position them in a summary
  4. Take a 30,000 foot view to manage them
  5. Drill down to see them better
  6. Beef up an Executive Summary with them
  7. Dial in their meaning
  8. Hit back with a counter-offer
  9. Demonstrate them in the value proposition 
  10. Reveal them in programming code
  11. Macro- them in a SWOT report
  12. Explain them in the gross, or the net, or the net-net
  13. Disambiguate them, or
  14. Detail the unknowns with them.

We even try to QUALIFY numbers! 
This makes simple usage SUPER-CONTRADICTORY.
Check out these very common and still pervasively inconsistent uses:

  • We are Number One!
  • Respond on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is Poor and 5 is Excellent.
  • You have zero defects.
  • He went from zero to hero.
  • I have to do number two.
  • Buy one get one FREE!
  • No – buy one, get one half off.
  • No, just buy one. There’s no twofer.
  • Enjoy the 50% discount!
  • Two! Two! Two mints in One!
  • We have a three-way tie!
  • Three on a match is unlucky.
  • She’s a 10. I am a solid 8.
  • Cats have 9 lives.
  • Nein!
  • Seven or eleven are WINNERS in Craps – the dice game.
  • We are in the eleventh hour and destruction is imminent.
  • It’s five minutes until midnight and the worst is yet to come.
  • It’s almost midnight. Happy New Year!
  • Friday the 13th, considered unlucky.
  • Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Marino, Number 13, Miami Dolphins
  • One card short in a deck of 52
  • You are barely passing with a 71 in class.
  • We got a 100 out of 100 for a perfect 100%.
  •  No. You need to give 110% every day.
  • At LAST! We are FIRST!

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”
~  Plato

REMEMBER: Knowledge comes from the assessment and the evaluation of the results of our actions
against the vision and the plan. Having numbers is great. But, use your knowledge.

Below is the dialogue from SCENE 37 in the film, “BIG” (1988).
The lesson to learn is that Josh, a young student trapped in an adult body, is expressing his knowledge:

SCENE 37 – To watch it – click here

These tests were conducted over a 6 month period using a double-blind format of 8 over-lapping demographic groups. Every region of the country was sampled, the focus testing showed a solid base in the 9 to 11-year old bracket–with a possible carry-over into the 12-year olds. When you consider that Nobots and Transformers pull over 37 % market share, and that we are targeting the same area, I think that we should see 1/4 of that and that is 1/5 of the total revenue from all of last year. Any questions? Yes? Yes?

JOSH   I don’t get it.
PAUL   What exactly don’t you get?
JOSH   It turns from a building into a robot, right?
PAUL   Precisely.
JOSH   Well, what’s fun about that?
PAUL   Well, if you had read your industry breakdown, you see success in the action figure area climbed from 27% to 45% in the last 2 years. Here, that might help.
JOSH   Oh.
PAUL   Yes?
JOSH   I still don’t get it.
PAUL   What?!
MR. M   What don’t you get Josh?
JOSH   Well, there’s a million robots that turn into something. And this is a building that turns into a robot. So what’s so fun about playing with a building? That’s not any fun!
PAUL   This is a skyscraper.
JOSH   Well, couldn’t it be like a robot that turns into something like a bug or something?
PAUL   A bug?
JOSH   Yeah! Like a big prehistoric insect with maybe like giant claws that could pick up a car and crush it like that!
MAN   A prehistoric transformer?
MR. M   Interesting.
PAUL   Gentlemen!
MAN   So the robot turns into a bug.
PAUL   Ah, gentlemen, listen…
MAN   Listen to him. He’s got a very good idea here. The robot turns into a bug.
MAN   This is a great idea!
JOSH   Different sizes and things. And…you could have them wreck something…
MAN   A lady bug. Transformers for girls!
MR. M   This is a bug that moves….It’s got all kinds of possibilities.
PAUL   This doesn’t just happen. This doesn’t happen. You don’t just come to a meeting and say “bugs.”
SUSAN   I, uh….
MR. M   Well done, Josh. Well done.

Remember: Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg wrote this screenplay in the early 1980s! So much to learn from the film, still . . .

Now, get back to work and go crunch some numbers!

Copyright © 1960-2018 Lawrence J. J. Leonard All rights reserved.

Author: SpindoctorUSA

Read about it here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s