The question I pose to you this week is quite simple: who do you trust the most when you are given statistics to back up an argument?

Consider the fine example to the left. While technically true, it really is useless, right? You have no other information or details to review. You are simply told that “statistics show” something, as if that should be enough for you to decide for yourself.

Another example that I see all the time is how public corporations will publish their earnings and compare themselves to the same quarter a years ago. So, you may see something like “earning were down 10% compared to a year ago”. But what you rarely ever see are some follow up facts, such as “a year ago earnings were through the roof and we made twenty billion dollars”. If you knew that a year ago the company was making record earnings you might not be worried about the 10% this time around.

So, how often do you ask for the finer details? And when listening to people give presentations or make arguments, how often do you follow-up on the facts? And when people are trolling through your databases, slicing and dicing their way in some data mining effort, how willing are you to trust their final analysis?