Magazine article Management Today

Why Not Figure It out for Yourself?

Magazine article Management Today

Why Not Figure It out for Yourself?

Article excerpt

There are some people who are rather keen on statistics. Then again, there are quite a few of us who aren't quite so keen on them and a sizeable chunk of folk who aren't keen on them at all.

Of course, if you are one of those people who are rather keen on statistics, this might seem a rather woolly way of looking at things. In which case you might (95% probability) prefer to arrange for a survey of a statistically representative sample of the public which could bash out some hard facts on just how society views statistics.

Then with a bit of luck -- and the right set of questions -- you might even (100% probability) end up with the sort of hard facts you wanted. Of those questioned 59.3% would describe themselves as |keen or very keen' on having a decent set of statistics around the place; 26.1% would agree that statistics could |play a positive role in raising standards'; and a bewildered 14.4% would end up saying that they |would like more information on how statistics could improve public services'-- even though what they were actually thinking was that statistics are a 100% waste of time.

In fact there is an increasingly sharp and acrimonious split developing in British public life between those who believe in statistics and those who don't -- or the people who live in the real world, as the latter sometimes refer to themselves.

In more tolerant times belief or doubt in statistics was largely held to be a personal matter. Certain members of the Establishment, namely chancellors of the exchequer, were officially supposed to believe in them -- although it was widely understood that, when they were among friends, they were sceptical.

At the same time many millions of individuals did believe and, indeed, collected stocks of statistics for their own private use. Goals scored by left-footed wing-halfs in FA Cup Finals were carefully noted, the average numbers of grunts per game in the Ladies Final of the Wimbledon tennis championships were quietly calculated and unlikely bets in public houses were duly made. In short, statistics were one of those eccentric little customs, like watching Coronation Street on television, which could bring together the strangest of bedfellows.

In the 1990s sadly all that has changed. Forget the age of the oldest player to represent England in a cricket test match with Australia, the hottest temperature recorded in central London and the rainfall of the wettest Wimbledon. Forget who has won the League two years in succession and the intriguing fact that no Northern Ireland footballer has ever scored more than three goals in an international match. …

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