Are Managers “Numerate”?

by Jay Deragon on 09/20/2012

Your organization is surrounded by data. What is the data telling you?

Organizations are consumed with collecting data about everything and everyone. Social technology has created an explosion of new data never before seen, collected, analyzed and interpreted. Anyone and everyone can collect data but the era of big data requires a skill and knowledge set most managers and leaders lack.   The skill is the domain of data analysis and the knowledge is understanding how to create meaning from the analysis.

The difference between information and knowledge is being able to interpret the data. The difference between knowledge and wisdom is being able to create valuable insight (meaning) gained from the data. There is only a few who understand this while the many are clueless.

A recent HBR article by Jeanne Harris says: Googles recruiters know that experimentation and testing are integral parts of their culture and business processes. So job applicants are asked questions such as “how many golf balls would fit in a school bus?” or “how many sewer covers are there in Manhattan?” The point isnt to find the right answer but to test the applicants skills in experimental design, logic and quantitative analysis.

21st Century Requirement For Management:

Management must be adept at mathematical reasoning. How many of your managers today are really “numerate” — competent in the interpretation and use of numeric data? Its a skill thats going to become increasingly critical. Business users dont need to be statisticians, but they need to understand the proper usage of statistical methods.

Management must be able to see the big data picture. You might call this “data literacy”: competence in finding, manipulating, managing, and interpreting data, including not just numbers but also text and images. Data literacy skills must spread far beyond their usual home, the IT function, and become an integral aspect of every business function and activity. via Data Is Useless Without the Skills to Analyze It – Jeanne Harris – Harvard Business Review.

Managements job is getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively.  The job cannot be done without being adept at mathematical reasoning and able to see the bigger picture. Being adept at mathematical reasoning means having the skills and knowledge to collect, analyze and interpret meaningful data.

Otherwise the data and analysis says will you will lose in a market where knowledge and wisdom are required to survive.


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