Statistics: Why I believe we should use more than statistics when working with people

I recently had someone ask me to provide the statistics regarding the reduced learning curve and saved time a standard operating procedure manual can provide for new employees.


When people request statistics on something, they miss out on the big picture. I agree that it would be easy to attach a percentage to, for instance, a reduced learning curve.

But what are we missing when we blithely quote statistics and percentages when it comes to employees?

We miss the big picture.

I can go and measure the reduced learning curve in an organisation that has a standard operating procedure manual. It is not that difficult to do. But this measurement will differ from organisation to organisation and even from person to person. Why?

Because there are so many other factors to consider. What is the quality of the standard operating manual? Is it easy to understand? Does it cover the exact learning that is to take place? What is the intelligence of the new employee reading the manual? Is reading their preferred learning style? Is the new employee in an environment conducive to learning?

So I ditch the statistics in favour of general conviction. If I look at studies done and find that a certain method works better than another overall, I adopt the better method. I don’t need statistics to make my choice.

If President Truman had waited for all the statistics to be presented to him before authorising the atom bomb to be used during World War II, he would have waited 2000 years, even if the whole USA civil service was gathering and collating this data. He based his decision on a general conviction, based on all he knew, that it was better to authorise it than not to.

When you meet up with someone and decide you would like to get married to them, do you need statistics for your choice? I know a person who compiled a list of his ideal soul mate and didn’t get married until he threw away his list!

Let’s step back and look at the big picture. Let’s consider statistics, but not make it the determining factor in making decisions regarding people.

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