We don’t care about your data

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We don’t care about your data. A few weeks ago, I was watching the video of MOHAMMED QAHTANI: The Power Of Words. Mohammed is the 2015 Toastmasters World Champion, and his speech resonated with me. In case you don’t take the eight minutes to listen, the concept is that data, without personal relevance, achieves nothing.

Let’s say some statistician said 25% of people favoured blue, and 23% of people favoured red. What would you surmise?

For me, the first question would be, what colour blue and what colour red? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of shades of each, but some statistician has conveniently lumped them all together to prove some point.

The second question would be, what about the other 52% of people worldwide? And if you take it even further, does this mean that 75% of people HATE blue and 77% of people HATE red? 

Probably not, but without context, data is just a bunch of ones and zeros that mean nothing. 

When I was in university, I had a professor who believed that statistics did not lie. That numbers were absolute, and by looking at the numbers, you would always find the truth.

So, what did I do?

I took a set of statistical data, wrote half the paper proving a particular point using that data set and spent the back half disproving the same topic using precisely the same data.

Yes, he tried throwing me out of the class, but cooler heads prevailed. My point is that it is not the data that matters, but how we interpret it and what it means to us.

If we cannot paint a picture in someone’s mind of what the data means, how it affects them personally and what you want them to care about once they know this data, they won’t.

That is the big trouble with climate change scientists. They believe that everyone agrees on and interprets the data the same way they do, so they drone on and on and show endless charts about a half-percent increase in temperature, and most people roll their eyes and move on.

What if they showed a pot on a stove and stuck a thermometer in it instead? As the temperature rises from 99.5 F. to 100 F., something magical happens; it boils. That makes the half-degree relevant because you have given people a visual hook to demonstrate the effect half a degree can have. 

We need to make data relevant to the audience in front of us if we want them to listen, understand, care and act. As much as many people would love to believe it to be true, most decisions are based on emotion, not fact.

When we have reason to care about something personally, we pay attention to it. Otherwise, it becomes background noise that is easily filtered out.

There is too much going on in our lives and our world to care about everything. Doing so would pull us in so many directions that we would have constant analysis paralysis.

Instead, we must realise that certain people care about certain things and others about something different. Some care about local politics, some national and some international. Some care about climate change, and others about football. None are wrong, and none are one hundred percent correct.

However, if we want people to care about what we care about and pay attention to our data, we need to ask, WHY should they care? How can I make this relevant to them? What will trigger them emotionally and encourage them to act?

We must care about the people we are trying to influence as much as the cause itself.  

Even if that cause is having a free lunch at the office on Friday.

Let me leave you with one last video.  

How to start a movement by Derek Sivers. He shows how to pull people towards a cause in under six minutes, utilising no data.