18 May Should you be using stories to explain the numbers in your business?
As a business owner or manager, you encounter numbers every day. Numbers are a tool that can be used to explain most things – profit and loss, results, a sales forecast, pay rises, targets, stock, customer visits, calls, complaints – the list goes on and on.
You are dealing with numbers all day, every day.
But how much effort do you put in to understanding these numbers?
And if you do understand them, how much effort do you go to make sure other people do?
If you want to make any changes in your business, the justification for this will always involve numbers, but how good are you at translating them so that your team or customers understand the changes you want to make?
And if they don’t understand them, how can you expect them to agree with what you are proposing?
When you build your skills of translation and get your message through to your team and customers, you get their buy-in, followed by a positive decision and a commitment to action.
Use your numbers in a clever and inventive way. Below is a great experiment that is too good not to share. It shows how the way you translate your numbers can have a profound effect on your audience’s understanding of them.
You and a friend each enter a lottery with several large prizes.
But there’s a catch: if you win, you must spend £50,000 of your prize money each day until it runs out.
You win a million pounds.
Your friend wins a billion.
How long does it take each of you to spend your lottery windfall?
Your prize of £1 million runs out after just 20 days – 20 days x £50,000 = £1 million.
Your friend would have a full-time job spending £50,000 a day as it would take 20,000 days, or 55 years!
In their landmark book, Making Numbers Count, Chip Heath and Karla Starr use this exercise to show that:
“1 billion—1,000,000,000—is a number. We might think we understand it because it’s right there, in black and white, but it has so many zeros that our brains fog up. It’s just “lots”.
How much bigger is a billion than a million? A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 32 years!