Statistics, Evidence, and Creativity

Statistics can be dangerous, creating traps for the unwary.

For instance, even if I have my feet in the ‘fridge and my head in the oven, my average temperature might still be ok. But shouldn’t I be worried?

Representing these Russian dolls by their average height, would really miss the point.

And then there’s the matter of evidence, which is increasingly used to support the development of strategies, aims and policies. But surely, proper evidence is essential if we are to move organisations, businesses and society in the right direction, isn’t it? Well, yes and no!

After all, we should build our future on proper evidence wherever possible, but working with ‘evidence’ to determine strategic aims can also carry dangers. ‘Evidence’ needs to be intensely rational – so working with it will make use of the left, rational side of our brains. But it is likely that the best strategic aims will be developed when we access the right, creative side of our brains.

So having considered the evidence, we should engage in discussion and other visioning activity, so as to unleash our creative faculties. An excellent example of this approach, is the Derby Primary Care NHS Trust’s aim to save 2,000 lives in the next 10 years. Devised to meet the challenges thrown up by evidence, the strategic thought processes went well beyond just focusing on the (rational) ‘evidence’. The Trust’s aim is not only an example of creative thinking, but the resulting aim is also empowering – and therefore much more likely to achieve success! Using both sides of our brains really does make practical sense – the evidence clearly shows it . . . . . . . . . .

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