Monday, January 29, 2007

How Did a Guy Who Hated Math Become Known for Statistics?

Funny, I hated math in secondary school. I wasn’t good with figures in my head, although passable when I could see the numbers on a blackboard etc. The only math-related classes I liked were in 8th grade when my football coach taught them… and as a sophomore (first year of high school) when my geometry teacher made it come to life with her high, squeaky voice and ability to accept my shaking handwriting.

It’s ironic because in my job, for years now, I’ve gotten high marks for statistics… for me a funky, application form of math. I’ve thought often, how did a guy who graduated in history and poly sci and went to law school get known for statistics?

One, I’m good with proportions… although I can’t hang pictures on a wall. Second, early in my career managing convention and visitor bureaus which began in my mid-20s, I was greatly disgusted with older CEOs who dismissed research if they knew about it at all or at best considered it something you just manipulated.

They believed in winging it… lots of intuition, lots of WAG (wild ass guessing), lots of anecdotal ready, fire, aim thinking and lots of emulating competitors.

It shocked, frightened and embarrassed me…. although I run into people every day who know no other ways to make decisions. Mortified at those methods of guiding expenditure of millions of dollars, I stepped back and embraced research and studying benchmarks. This led to being an early adopter of performance measures that are mainstream today.

So, I don’t make a decision or even a comment based on instincts without first vetting it from several different viewpoints with statistical, measurable data. In fact, I’ve learned to approach every decision with an open mind and then enjoy the occasional high when data validate something I believe instinctually.

It’s just as rewarding as WAGing… it’s far more productive… and I can sleep at night guiding the expenditure of millions of dollars.

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