Decision Makers Need More Math

Rigorous mathematical thinking is missing in most decision making environments

Keith McNulty

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Recently I was having a conversation with a friend who was frustrated with his current situation at work. He was responsible for driving a major software rollout in his sales force, but he didn’t believe in what he was doing. Neither, it turns out, did any of his colleagues. The situation he described sounded really miserable and demotivating.

My natural reaction was to ask how this had all come about. He described how the decision to pursue the rollout stemmed from a ‘killer chart’ that had been circulated among management. The chart had compared the sales output of two groups and concluded that one group was more effective because of their use of a particular software product in the field.

I asked him two questions. First, I asked if they had established that the difference in the two groups was not down to pure chance? Second, I asked if they had established conclusively that the use of the software had caused the difference.

He was dumbfounded. He told me he had no idea that differences can happen by chance, and the whole causality question was not even discussed. He described how the management group simply swallowed the chart and made a decision without further debate about the…

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Keith McNulty

Pure and Applied Mathematician. LinkedIn Top Voice in Tech. Expert and Author in Data Science and Statistics. Find me on LinkedIn, Twitter or keithmcnulty.org