Today the world is full of statistics, trends, analyses and conclusions. Now more than ever we are being bombarded with data around the current health crisis such as infections, death rates, economic impact and recession.

One thing has become clear though, that even accurate data can be bent out of shape through the context it is given.

It’s not just what is being presented but what is not being presented that taints the claims of truth being made.

This becomes apparent in its most basic statistical form – just good old fashioned basic mathematics.

Let’s present a theoretical comparison where x represents our national economy and holds a value of 60. And let’s theorise that current predictions say the economy will head to 30.

Assuming the data is correct, we can see that the economy is shrinking in half – hello recession.

But just because our data tells us that recession is happening in the big picture of our nation, does not mean it’s happening on a granular level.

Is every business going to shrink by exactly half? Well, actually probably not. History teaches us that recession has the following impact on business (and therefore on us as individuals):

a) Some businesses sadly do fail
b) Some businesses struggle through and come through about the same
c) Some businesses thrive or even start from scratch (a quick Google will help you here)

We can see that in our (very simple) model, pre-recession means that x = a + b + c. We could assign them equal value where a, b and c hold the value of 20 each.

As our mathematical economy enters into recession, the values of a, b and c are further reduced. And this is where our critical error of thinking comes in.

Who says that a, b, and c have to change equally? Think about the vast range of people you know and work with. Are they all equally productive? Are they all in the same industry? Are they all as flexible, entrepreneurial or hard working? Of course not. The list of differences is truly long.

If your workplace is anything like some I’ve experienced in the past, then if we’re honest your workplace probably has some people who do close to no work at all.

We might theorise that after recession they might all hold the value of 20 or just as theoretically we could say that they would hold the value of 5, 20 and 35, or even -40, 20 and 80.

Herein lies the problem in most of the conclusions drawn by popular culture and our media.

Just because the data is correct does not mean that the conclusions we extrapolate are.

We would do well to remind ourselves that attention is the world’s greatest currency right now. The media (whether social or traditional) are rewarded by clicks.

Hence the more outrageous the conclusions drawn, the more that is gained. Truth becomes irrelevant as the advertising revenue and public opportunities stream in.

The expansive diversity of humanity means that categories, conclusions and trends can be made to fit whichever narrative is convenient.

Because many of us are looking to simply confirm what we already think, instead of objectively pursuing the truth itself.

It reminds me of my kids who decide they don’t like a certain type of food before even trying it. The real tragedy of course is missing out on the wonders of new flavours and experiences of life.

The bittersweet news for the rest of us is that thinking objectively is in short supply in our world. Those who learn how to do so will prosper greatly. But many will fail for lack of wisdom.

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