# Archive | analysis

## Surprise! 10,000 steps was a marketing ploy

For many years, my routine was a Sunday hike followed by a Sunday blog. For a variety of reasons, both my hiking and blogging have become erratic. After skipping yet another Sunday hike, I was surprised to find that I still had exceeded 10,000 steps per day for the past week. 10,000 is the number…

## Critical Thinking Via 5 Whys and First Principles

Early in my career, my departmental VP hired a well-known management consulting firm to diagnose why an important project had failed. The management consultants used a technique called “5 Whys” to get past discussions of the failed outcomes and try to unearth the root causes. As the name implies, the technique is based on asking…

## 4 out of 5 People Can Be Wrong

The law of small numbers (or hasty generalization) is the tendency to jump to a conclusion without enough evidence. In statistics, it’s called bias from insensitivity to sample size – generalizing from a limited number of events (a sample) selected from a much larger number of events (the population). For example, if a mutual fund…

## Sometimes beliefs are stronger than statistics

One rainy afternoon I was watching a re-run of a detective show when I began to think about the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt.” How much doubt, I wondered, is reasonable? If you have an analytics background, you might fall prey to the temptation of trying to quantify the doubt. Using the language of statistics,…

## The 3 Laws of Probability Everyone Should Know

These three laws, simple as they are, form much of the basis of probability theory. Properly applied, they can give us much insight into the workings of nature and the everyday world. – Leonard Mlodinow That quote is from Leonard Mlodinow’s book, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. The book contains examples as…

## It’s time to fix how we board airplanes

I travel often enough that when people ask me where I’m based, I sometimes joke “Seat 4F.” I’ve been able to observe a lot of passengers boarding planes. Based on what I’ve seen, how we board airplanes doesn’t work very well. And based on what I’ve read, it doesn’t make sense either. All U.S. airlines…

## Process Matters More Than Analysis When Making Decisions

Which matters more when making decisions: analysis or process? Given my analytics background, for most of my career I’ve tried to convince people they should make decisions based on data, rather than their gut. The more informed you are by data, the more confident you can be in your decision making. If the facts contradict…