There have been clear losers in the UK General Election yesterday. People who should go back and do a good soul searching, critically think about what went wrong and acknowledge fiasco at great scale. I am talking of course about the owners/leaders of Opinion Polls companies. Their ‘neck to neck’ between the two major parties, Conservative and Labour did translate into an absolute majority of the Conservative and a real disaster for the rest.
Did people change their minds? Were they lying in the opinion polls? Were the samples well constructed? The weather? The position of the moon?
The trouble with numbers is that they are fascinating, they have the same effect as light in front of rabbits’ eyes. It is much harder to judge intentions, fears, love and hate, or rejection of a A that becomes translated into an adoption of B.
The poll numbers were wrong. The new ballot numbers are overwhelming.
In organizations, we are much better at ‘managing by numbers’ than managing and translating into numbers. We are much better at launching Employee Engagement surveys that translate into numbers than understating what is behind the numbers and predicting employee behaviours, collectively and individually. Somebody unsatisfied with the company’s work-life balance is a number. This person may be unsatisfied with the company, full stop, and then ascribe dissatisfaction across the company, extending an halo effect to its work-life balance, which, perhaps, in itself, could be even pretty good.
Leaders need to spend 90% of the time in understanding the why and 10% of understanding the numbers.
After all, leading towards the future needs a fair dose of prediction. Predictions need a why. Mastering the ability to predict means going deeper into the understating of causes and effects, a harder task than saying yes, no, or wow! to a set of numbers
Predicting is also imagining scenarios, imagining worlds, making sense of the past and present and projecting in space ant time. This should be a,b.,c for leaders but, as the owners-leaders of all UK polling companies have now understood, it may take a fair new dose of behavioural sciences to polish the trade.
The numbers in the spread sheet are amoral numbers in a cell, until you bring behavioural sciences in and you start making sense.