Data Deception

I heard it again the other day. Somebody said with reverent certainty that, “The data never lie.” So, here’s my quarterly rant about the perils of blind allegiance to data.

The sad truth is that data lie all the time, in so many creative and interesting ways. As leaders, managers and analysts, it’s our responsibility to understand that data are only as good as the people and processes used to collect, interpret and apply them. It’s always our duty to ask probing questions about any data we’re presented.
Financial Times columnist Tim Harford provided a good case in point on Saturday. He reported that the homicide rate in England and Wales was reported to have jumped an alarming 21 percent in 2016. 21 percent! That’s 100 additional homicides over the 2015 figures. Public officials decried the new statistic and, depending upon their interests, ideologies or party affiliations, played it up or down in varying ways.
It turns out, however, that 96 of those 100 additional homicides actually occ…

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