Episode: 379 |
Will Bachman:
Choosing Units:


Will Bachman

Choosing Units

Show Notes


In this episode of Unleashed, I offer a few tips on how to use units strategically to emotionally engage your clients and avoid numerical overload.


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Will Bachman 00:02
How does it feel? If I tell you that the US national debt is $40 trillion? What’s your intuitive sense of that number? How does it? How does it feel?


Will Bachman 00:16
if you are a true finance nerd, you might feel that that’s wrong, that the actual number is lower than that. And you’d be right. So I’d say, okay, it’s not $40 trillion. Let’s say instead, I tell you that the number is $20 trillion, just $20 trillion, half of that number 20 trillion. How does that feel? Does that feel much different intuitively, in terms of, you know, big numbers, small number? So if you’re, again, if you’re a true finance nerd, you’d say, well, that’s too low. It’s actually $27 trillion. Right now, here in February 2021. Okay, so So, so we land on the right number. So $27 trillion? What’s your intuitive sense of that? Does that feel any different than 40 trillion or 20 trillion? To me? All of those numbers seem so fantastically big. I have, I have no intuitive sense of those numbers. They don’t mean much to me. And when I hear on the news that the debt is at some number like that, it just kind of passes right over me. I don’t have any real emotional reaction to it. Other than that seems very big. My guess is that, I mean, I’m fairly quantitative, right. I majored in physics at Harvard. But, you know, my guess is that probably more than half of Americans wouldn’t with confidence tell you, which is greater 100 billion or 1 trillion. That’s just my guess. And so if I figure if I have trouble quantitatively dealing with a number like that, many other Americans may as well. So I always think for numbers like that, the news would be better off reporting it as a per capita number. So take $27 trillion, and divide it by the current 328 million population of the US. And then we get a per capita debt of 82,317. And that’s a number that I can relate to, because I can compare that to how much I earn every year. And I can compare that to my mortgage and my car, loan, and so forth, and say, Wow, $82,000, that the US government owes on my behalf. That’s a pretty decent sized number, particularly given if I think of it as my family. So that, you know, there’s my wife and our three kids, there’s five of us. So that’s actually about $410,000, that my family unit owes on behalf of the US federal government, that starts to get pretty big. And I mean, I, particularly, I mean, for my family, and you know, we’re barely above the I mean, not probably, but we’re above the US medium income. So I’m thinking, Wow, that’s a pretty big number, well, above the average us median income, or wealth, even. So, putting that number in context, for me, helps make that much more relatable. So I would get much more concerned, if you told me that, you know, my family owes $410,000, personally, on behalf of the US government, then just if you throw out a number like 27 trillion, same way, if you tell me that the deficit in a given year is $1 trillion, that doesn’t mean much. But if you say, hey, that’s $3,000 per person, or $15,000, for your family, that the US government had to borrow, in this current year to you know, to pay for expenses, it starts making much more meaningful. So I guess the lesson of this is to think carefully about the units that you use as a consultant, when you’re setting up key performance indicators. It seems like a minor switch, but it can make it much more meaningful to the executives and other team members that will be you know, using those. So if you’re thinking about a production line, are you talking about units produced per month, which might be hard for a given hourly worker to relate to, or number of units produced on the line per hour, which might seem much more relatable in a similar way, kind of in the other direction? I’ve always felt that scientists made a bit of a mistake on global warming when they phrased the position that the change in the metric as kind of the change in average temperature at a given time. Right. So we hear about whether it’s going to be a one degree rise in temperature or a 1.5 degree rise or a two degree rise. And just for the average person that feels kind of small. Like, on a given day, it’d be hard for me I’d be hard pressed by walk outside to know if it’s 71 degrees or 72 degrees or 73 degrees or 74 degrees outside, those all feel pretty same, pretty similar. So it seems like there’s a lot of noise about a very small change in temperature. I mean, whether it’s 42 degrees outside Fahrenheit or 44 degrees outside Fahrenheit, it’s still pretty chilly, two degrees different. What’s the difference? Now, on the NASA website, they even kind of acknowledged the fact that that seems small. And they say, here’s some text I’ll just read there a one degree global change is significant, because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm up all the oceans atmosphere and land by that much. In the past, a one or two, one to two degree drop was all it took to plunge the earth into the Little Ice Age. And a five degree drop was enough to bot burry a large part of North America under towering massive ice 20,000 years ago. So those examples helped convince, you know, begin to convincing me intellectually, that a two degree change is a pretty big deal. But still, it just intuitively it doesn’t feel that way. I think that if the scientists had talked about annual degree days, that it would have been far more intuitive and emotional for a lot of people. So instead of saying a one degree average rise, if they had said, well, it’s an extra 365 degree days, that starts feeling like, even though it’s actually not quite accurate, in what’s happening in reality, it feels like wow, 365 that’s the temperature of my oven. Or if they had said a two degree rise, instead of phrasing it that way, said, Oh, it’s 720 degree degree days per year. I mean, we do talk about annual rainfall in inches per year. So why not talk about changes of temperature in degree days, and a number like 720, or 365 seems much bigger and scarier than a one or 1.5, or two degree rise in temperature. So again, lesson is, think about the units you’re using, and use them. Use those strategically to make the case of getting people emotionally involved in the change that you’re trying to create in the clients that you serve. So thanks for listening to this episode of Unleashed. If you visit umbrex.com slash Unleashed, you can sign up for our weekly email, which I’ll tell you about all the episodes we had in most recent week. And if you’d like to leave a five star review on iTunes, that would be much appreciated. It helps people discover the show and you can email me Will Bachman at unleashed@umbrex.com Thanks for listening

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