Crafting Powerful Statistics: The Instagram Principle of Bad Data

Are you struggling to make your data-driven insights resonate with a wider audience? Remember this golden rule: powerful statistics are simple. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to identify good and bad stats and provide you with a litmus test to ensure your numbers are both robust and easy to understand.

A good rule of thumb to gauge whether your statistics will resonate with an audience is to ensure they’re easily understood. Robust stats can be expressed simply, often using superlatives: the first player in NBA history, the oldest, the fastest, the youngest to reach this level, the fewest errors, or the most interest earned.

To identify bad stats, consider what happens in sports when a new player appears on screen. You can almost see the statisticians working overtime with a single directive: use math to make this player sound impressive. These stats often shun simplicity and resemble the logic used when grasping for any connection with someone or the bragging of a proud parent.

For example, a statistic like “Players with 800 games to average 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 49% field goals, and 30% 3-point field goals: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Thaddeus Young” may sound impressive, but lacks simplicity and resonance. Instead, a more universal language can convey the same message: “Thaddeus Young’s stellar performance in 2018 increased the Indiana Pacers’ value by $27.6 million.”

Introducing “The Instagram Principle of Bad Data”: the more filters or conditions your numbers need, the less impressive they are in real life. When crafting your statistics, use as few tools as possible to get the job done.

A good litmus test is to gauge how much subject matter experience people need to understand your statistic. Test a figure by showing it to people outside of your group, rather than relying on team members who claim they’re not “math people.” Keep in mind that sports news, notorious for catering to fanatics, often breaks this rule.

Effective statistics are simple, easy to understand, and resonate with a wider audience. By following the Instagram Principle of Bad Data and using the litmus test of subject matter experience, you can ensure your numbers are both robust and impactful, making your insights more valuable and accessible to all.

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