Naked Statistics

  1. Consider the following hypothetical Internet news flash:  People who take short breaks at work are far more likely to die of cancer. Imagine that headline popping up while you are surfing the web. According to a seemly impressive study of 36,000 office workers (a huge data set!), those workers who reported leaving their offices to take regular 10-minute breaks during the workday were 41 percent more likely to develop cancer over the next five years than workers who don't leave their office during the workday. Clearly we need to act on this kind of finding -perhaps some kind of national awareness campaign to prevent short breaks on the job.
    Or maybe we just need to think more clearly about what many workers are doing during that 10-minute break. My professional experience suggests that many of those workers who report leaving their offices for short breaks are huddled outside the entrance of the building smoking cigarettes (creating a haze of smoke through which the rest of us have to walk in order to get in or out). I would further infer that it's probably the cigarettes, and not the short breaks from work, that are causing the cancer.
  2. Swedish mathematician and writer Andrejs Dunkels: It's easy to lie with statistics, but it's hard to tell the truth without them.
    The bad news is that any simplification invites abuse. Descriptive statistics can be like online dating profiles: technically accurate and yet pretty darn misleading.
  3. There is a common business aphorism: "You can't manage what you can't measure." True, but you had better be darn sure what you are measuring is really what you are trying to manage.
Card Set
Naked Statistics
Charles Wheelan