A few years ago, the Oakland A’s became famous for practicing a type of statistical analysis that sought to get a lot of wins without spending a lot of money by seeking pretty good players that were well-balanced in neglected areas, and ended up winning a lot of games with very low salaries because of their strategy. Of course, their success at getting players who were speedy and good at hitting singles was copied, and so they shifted their strategy to seek different ignored categories, always trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else. Their approach was not based on a narrow approach, but a broader one that focused on the approach of looking at numbers as a way to understand people. There are some people who trust their gut, and there are others who trust the numbers, and where one has enough metrics as well as enough intuition, both can lead to very sound conclusions, while both can go wrong if they are not founded on the proper foundations.

Among my business and academic interests is a focus on the problem of numbers [1]. If one wants to understand how people are doing, numbers are a far more reliable way to understand the state of others than merely listening to others tell you vague and possibly dishonest responses when asking how they are doing. After all, in the United States, “How are you doing?” is not a question, but rather a greeting. A great deal of expense is taken into developing systems of record keeping to allow for statistics to be kept, and using those capabilities to generate reports that tell the right kind of information is a difficult kind of trick. It is a worthwhile one, though, and one that entire business philosophies are based on. It is, of course, very helpful to our success to have some kind of numbers that let us know how we are doing, so long as we remember that the numbers serve us, and not we the numbers.

Even though a lot of people hate mathematics, for reasons I do not entirely understand [2], numbers do enjoy popularity in certain circles. For example, there is a moderately popular television show in recent years that looked at the mathematics, the numbers, behind criminal behavior. As people are creatures of habit (and I know I am), behavior can be quantified and mapped, which makes it able to be analyzed and understood. Likewise, life is about processes, and looking at numbers can help us to understand how those processes are working, or not. Of course, usually in life processes tend to break down at some point, and getting them to work out right can be a tricky part. I feel at least a little bit glad that I have enough skills to be able to work out ways (that don’t take too much time) to measure the productivity of what is going on around me, including my own writings. If only all areas of life would be that straightforward.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Numbers

  1. Pingback: On Equal Pay For Equal Play In Tennis | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Why Flip A Coin? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Why Flip A Coin? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: I Know My Calculus | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: The Law Of Small Numbers | Edge Induced Cohesion

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