Friday, November 9, 2012

Don't hide the truth via statistics when the truth will be found out anyway

As P.T. Barnum once said, there are lies and there are statistics. Actually, I don't know if P.T. Barnum said that, but I figured that he had some working knowledge of the subject matter. And after all, as Abraham Lincoln once said, everything you see on the Internet is true.

Regardless of who said what, statistics can often be used to obfuscate the truth. Such obfuscation is sometimes successful, but at other times it is not.

Speaking of obfuscation, I cannot reveal the names of the organizations in the following story, but it is true.

A little while ago, Organizations A and B jointly bought a product from Organization C. When it came time to buy the product a second time, Organization A bought the product on behalf of A and B - and then told B about the purchase.

"The total price of Organization C's product increased by only 8%," said Organization A, who then said, "and we at Organization A are paying 70% of the total price this time around. You will recall that we paid 80% the last time we made the purchase."

If you think that Organization B was pleased at this news, you are sadly mistaken.

"So you're saying that Organization B's cost increased by 62%," said Organization B.

There was a pause.

"Why didn't you say so in the first place?" asked Organization B.

It's safe to say that a lot of goodwill was lost as a result of Organization A's presentation.

(For the true history of the unexpurgated phrase about lies and statistics, see this Wikipedia entry. If you believe Wikipedia.)
blog comments powered by Disqus