People love speedometers, Top 10 lists, Maximum Occupancy signs, and home run totals. We're less interested in on-base percentage, calculating the tip at a restaurant, and converting Fahrenheit to Celsius (and vice versa). Why? Because those require us to do actual math. We hate math.
Our abhorrence for calculation enables us to mutually agree on statistically dubious metrics with nary a shrug or arched eyebrow. Consider Nielsen ratings, which are used to determine the popularity of all TV shows and, consequently, how the dozens of billions of dollars in TVadvertising are apportioned.
In 2009, there were 1,147,910 households with a TV in metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina. Among them, the behavior of just 619 was tracked by Nielsen to determine ratings. A total of 619 families became the unelected representative tastemakers for 1,147,291 other families. That's not math; that's folly.
But yet, we welcome numerical vagary and imprecision into our businesses like a box of free Krispy Kremes. We accept as truth Arbitron (and Nielsen) radio rankings, the number of cars that drive by a billboard, and the notion that somehow people read every page of a newspaper or magazine (and pass it along to 2.5 friends). Do you really know the financial impact of your TV, radio, outdoor print, public relations, and customer service initiatives? Probably not.
However, the teeth gnashing around the effectiveness of social media has ground our molars to dust.
Here's how many ...