Overcoming the Amygdala Part 103


It’s important to quantify whatever you have as an ideal, or you’ll quite easily lose your way in the jungle of opinion and estimation. But some things are hard to staticise, which is where direct observation comes in.

For example, the British Empire once spanned the globe but gradually shrank over a few decades as its constituent parts gained independence from Westminster. Then, as it further declined economically, it was absorbed for a while into the nearby European ‘empire’ and was under threat of losing its own identity until its recent departure from the EU. As a United Kingdom, it is arguably continuing to break up or break down, depending on how you look at it. One could work out a statistic along the lines of ‘square miles of territory governed’ or even ‘countries under British control’, but observed facts speak for themselves in this case.

Stats can be as simple as ‘Areas cleaned’ for a cleaner or ‘Operations successfully performed’ for a brain surgeon. All one needs to know is that a correct statistic measures accurately whether an area or activity is approaching its ideal or drifting away from it.

If you run a business on multiple statistics, it possible to detect false stats, embezzled income, discrepancies in performance, upcoming crises and all manner of things. Lay out the major stats of any company and look for trends in common between them, or things that don’t make sense.

For example, ‘New recruits’ might be going up over time, but ‘People starting on jobs’ remains at zero. So where are all the new recruits going? A little investigation reveals that the recruitment stat is going up because people are being given false promises by the recruiter. Once those recruits discover the truth, they don’t carry on with their induction training and so never make it to their desks.

Another example: income stats are going down and the graph parallels the quality control stat, also plummeting. Investigate what’s happening in quality control, find someone not doing their job properly, fix that — and watch quality control go up along with income.

Stats are magical clues to what is really going on in any activity. They act like ‘x-rays’, piercing the fog of opinions, misdirections, lies and confusions to reveal the actual existing scene. You can avoid jumping to conclusions and acting on reactions and opinions by examining hard numerical figures.

You can also sometimes find people working very hard to make stats look good when the truth is quite different.

I recall one company executive receiving bonus after bonus from his head office based on his apparent stellar performance statistically, until it was discovered that every week he would lock himself away in an office and ‘massage the figures’ to make himself look good — so head office was acting on the basis of fake stats.

Fake stats are usually easily spotted. People who want to invent stats in order to conceal a real scene usually overdo it and make every stat look good, which should make any observer suspicious; and patterns in stats can tell a trained observer a great deal about the truth of what’s happening, not just ups and downs. A statistic which measures ‘repairs’ skyrocketing at the same time as ‘staff holiday time’ also steeply climbs upward should prompt an investigation — who’s doing all the repairs if everyone’s on holiday?