In a response post, Research and Stats: practically useless? Anu Gupta wrote:
“We’re not the only community that needs to value the intangible economists do it when valuing goodwill, marketeers do it when valuing brands. In most cases, these numbers just serve as a starting point for an argument, but at least there’s a point of reference.”
That’s a good point. I replied in a comment to Anu’s posting. Here’s what I said…
My comment to Anu’s posting was:
…That’s a great point. I understand and agree with the logic of it. I’m not completely denying or resisting the natural business urge to translate all relationships into numbers.
That said, why does this have to be so hard? It seems like an unnecessary level of complexity. It seems (to me, at least) to be common sense that when you need to communicate with a particular group/audience/market, the easier it is for them to understand and interact with you, the better that is for your business. Why must all permutations of that basic aspect of communication be “proven” numerically, especially when such “proof” is often far more specious than that principle of communication? In my experience and observation, that contradiction hinders a lot of communication efforts.
Again, communication is a human function. Human beings are not calculators. Trying to reduce the principles of good communication to numbers, rather than understanding and applying them, will only take you so far — probably to the wrong destination.
Yes, I think creative communicators could find ways to jump through the numerical hoops to satisfy the basically irrational faith that so many in business cling to which says that numbers are the only truth. I can understand why that may be necessary.
I still think it’s a shame, and generally wasted effort that could be put toward communicating better.
– Amy Gahran
I must admit, I have mixed feelings on this topic which is probably why I experience so much frustration over it. Believe it or not, I am strongly scientific by nature. It’s probably because of my understanding of and respect for science that I have a hard time with the sloppy, “religious” use of quantitative research (numbers for the sake of numbers).
On the one hand, I realize that numbers are, in a sense, the language (or at least the “credibility currency”) of business. I realize that in order to convince most businesspeople of the value of good communication practices, you need to speak in their preferred language numbers.
On the other hand, not everything from the real world of human experience and behavior translates well into the language of numbers and statistics. Trying to force those principles into that language can cause considerable “translation errors” which means the ultimate point can get lost easily.
I don’t doubt that there are better ways to translate good communication principles into numbers and statistics that would be digestible for businesspeople. However, as Anu notes, that’ll be pretty hard, and will require considerable time and effort. If that’s what it takes, so be it. However, I could think of many other ways to put all that time and effort to better use say, by implementing better communication practices.
If someone could produce truly sound, effective research to support basic principles of good communication, no one would be happier than I. But I don’t think we need to wait for that to start communicating better, that’s all.