Posts Tagged ‘Statistics’

Moving Targets – Planning for the Future!

Thursday,29 May, 2008

If someone is out shooting at a moving target, they would never think of trying to hit the target where it is now. They would try to hit the target where it’s going to be by the time the bullet or arrow gets there! (Apologies to the seagull – it’s not intended to be the target, just an example of something moving freely and unpredictably . . . . . . . .)

And yet, so often, we can be so impressed by information – especially if it’s technical and in the form of statistics, or called “evidence” – that we base our plans for the future on such information, which may already be out of date.

What we should be doing is looking at trends, and thinking about what changes might be happening to our world in the future, so as to help us guess where our plans need to take us by the time they are delivered.

As an example, if we are planning to remove a percentage of the population out of fuel poverty by a given date, it’s no use basing this on current energy prices. We should assume that energy costs will be running ahead of general inflation, and therefore countering fuel poverty will need a higher level of investment than might otherwise be assumed.

It’s true that the past cannot automatically predict the future. But thinking creatively about how things have changed in the past, can help us develop ideas about how the future might be. And no matter how imperfect our efforts to predict the future, we’re likely to get much closer to the target by thinking differently about the future, than if we point all our efforts at how things are now!

Fortunately there’s help available for thinking differently about the future: see “The Tomorrow Project” in “Interesting Links”.

Managing all this information requires us to make the best possible use of our sub-conscious, as referred to in previous blogs, particularly the one headed “Problem Solving, Creativity, Brains, and Co-Coaching”.

Statistics, Evidence, and Creativity

Friday,23 May, 2008

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 . . . . . . . . . .