Lies, damned lies, and statistics
I’ve recently been reading a book called “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by venture capital investor Ben Horowitz. There’s a passage within based on the fact that in his line of work, you never go with the odds. He explains the crucial difference between determinate and indeterminate situations. If you want to fly a rocket to the moon, for example, you have to calculate every single element; you need to know exactly what’s going to happen. It's the ultimate determinate scenario. In an indeterminate world, Horowitz says there’s an argument that gauging the probability of an outcome through statistics is the best tool; you lay out all your possibilities, work out the probabilities and choose the best option.
But as a CEO of a company, Horowitz says that if he relied solely on stats he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“When you are building a company you must believe there is an answer [to any problem] and you cannot pay attention to your odds of finding it. You just have to find it. It matters not whether your odds are nine in ten or one in a thousand; your task is the same.”
The excerpt resonates with me, and not just because I studied statistics at school. I essentially won a lottery in order to get my visa to come and work in the UK. Out of 20,000 applicants, only 1,000 (or 5%) are successful. And once here, I found work in London at The Frameworks – again, defying the odds of success. If I'd focused on the statistics rather than the outcome, I'm not sure I'd have found the motivation to succeed.
While I agree with Horowitz’s argument about tackling a problem or pursuing an opportunity in spite of the odds, there is obviously a value in statistics. Accurate data and sound calculations provide a solid point of reference when approaching situations, projects or challenges (even if you do decide to ignore the odds you're up against).
There’s so much data readily available nowadays – and so much more being created every second – that businesses can and should be making better decisions based on statistics, measurement and analytics. It's a theme that crops up again and again with our work with clients ranging from IBM to Yokogawa.
But this is not really a post about business. Just for a change it's a personal journey to share some vital statistics from around the agency.
With my background, it’s not surprising that I often delve into the numbers that pepper my own life – and I recently discovered an interesting fact: I travelled twice the circumference of the world in 2014.
Our planet measures 24,901 miles around the equator. And I managed to journey 48,428 miles stuck in the air-conditioned cabin of an aeroplane – not the same one, I should add – as I worked with clients in Japan, America and London (I also threw in a couple of holidays for good measure). The longest I stayed in the same place was three weeks – and I broke three suitcases along the way. Working with brands across three different continents was a fulfilling and rewarding way to spend the year. But I still hate flying.
These numbers got me thinking about what stats my fellow Frameworkers might have compiled over the years. Will you find some interesting facts below? I’d say the odds are high.
“Between home and work, accounting for holidays and my Oyster card history, I have cycled 1,305.6 miles since getting my bike in August 2014.” Emile
“As of 12 February 2015, I have 26,786 emails in my work inbox.” Ben
“The coffee machine in the kitchen has brewed 10,411 cups of coffee as of 12 February 2015.” Emily
“Since I rejoined The Frameworks in September 2012, I've spent at least 1,500 hours commuting on trains.” Helena
“I once won a pancake-eating contest. I ate 37 pancakes and beat the entire high-school football team.” Rosalba
“Excluding three dodgy years I slept on a beat-up sofa next to the studio (don't ask), I have spent 2.4 years commuting to and from The Frameworks.” Terry
“I am 33 years/396 months/1,716 weeks/12,057 days old.” Travis
“Door to door, my record commute to the office is 4 minutes, 52 seconds by car and 9 minutes, 49 seconds by bicycle.” Aaron
“Since I started last year, I’ve clocked up over 300 exports from Webflow. That’s three to four design revision exports a day from July 2014.” Tim
“I've been bitten by the following: a monkey (once), snakes (three times by three different snakes, one of which bit me twice), dogs (twice, one of which left an excellent scar on my leg), a rabbit (once), a squirrel (once), a mountain lion (once, at the zoo I was working at; the bite wasn't hard, but I stopped putting my hands in the cage), turtles – (twice: one painted turtle and one snapping turtle, which took a nice chunk of flesh), and geese (too many times to count).” Andrew
“Nine Frameworker babies have been born in the last year – eight girls and one boy.” Louise
“I have designed 78 IBM Smarter Cities Challenge reports across six continents since I started at The Frameworks.” Chris
“I was the lead 2D designer on the award-winning RZD signage system that was rolled out across 86,000km of Russia’s railway system. I can now boast that my work spans a third of the world's landmass.” Naz
“We have published 53 different blogs from 30 different Frameworkers since I arrived at the agency.” Drew
“In five years of playing World of Warcraft, I have spent a total of 78 days, 14 hours and 46 minutes playing as six characters.” Marina
“Based on my wardrobe (ten polo shirts, nine watches, six pairs of trainers and one pair of jeans) it will take me five and a half years before I wear the same outfit twice.” Dale
“As of 12 February 2015, 11,035 goals have been scored in the Premier League since I joined The Frameworks in March 2004 – and 207 of those have been scored by my team, Birmingham City.” James
“I have spent more than £19,000 on horseshoes in 30 years and picked up approximately 10,000 wheelbarrows full of manure.” Sharon