aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

The Danger of Data (Even When It’s Accurate)

Posted by Ellen on January 6, 2012

You know I love data. You know I believe in the power it has to convince TPTB (The Powers That Be) in the need for elearning, for improved instructional design in face-to-face training, and all other related matters.

We worry a lot about getting our data wrong and about the dissemination of incorrect information. But when’s the last time you worried that accurate data could lead you — or your association leaders or your members or your other constituents — in the wrong direction?

Yes, it’s possible.

Here’s a perfect example, courtesy of Mark Twain:

“In the space of 176 years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself 242 miles. Therefore… in the Old Silurian Period, the Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long and … 742 years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long…. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

Moral of Mr. Twain’s story? Use facts and data wisely.

If you’re projecting the results of something, project something that’s realistic. If you’re drawing a causal relationship to examine what might have caused X, Y or Z to have happened, then do so logically.

Accurate data, wielded irresponsibly, could be more disastrous than not having data at all. Remember that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s