Stats Made Easy

Practical Tools for Effective Experimentation

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Statisticks (sic)

This Fall at a statistical conference I attended a stimulating talk on improving communications. The speaker recommended a book called Made to Stick. The authors, brothers Chip and Don Heath, provide six principles for making messages memorable: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories (SUCCESs). This article by News and World Report provides more details on the tricks to Making it Stick.

Our company’s mission statement, Statistics Made Easy®, has proven to be very sticky. It is simple, very unexpected, concrete and emotional (statistics are scary!). However, the never-ending challenge for Stat-Ease is to make its slogan credible.

The Heaths provide an enlightening discussion on how to convey statistics better. They provide, for example, the challenge of being the publicity director for a group committed to saving sharks. A statistician might say that on average only 0.4 Americans die per year from shark attacks (that seems very macabre!), whereas in 2000 alone, 12 died while swimming off lifeguard-protected beaches. These stats do not stick nearly as well as this alternative: Which wild animal is more like to kill you – a shark or a deer? Answer: A deer is 300 times more likely to be the death of you. Oh dear!

“Statistics are rarely meaningful in and of themselves…It’s more important for people to remember the relationship than the number.”
– Chip and Dan Heath


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