A bad ending if you believe stories are more influential than statistics

“A story – even a one-liner – is ultimately more persuasive than facts.” From the managing partner of a law firm as part of his advice in Texas Lawyer, Oct. 11, 2006, that assertion rankles me. As a believer in benchmarks and statistical analysis, I dwell in the camp of counts and quantification. I reject the notion that “decisions based on a story are better than decisions based on facts.”

Stories have emotional power, without a doubt, and can capture values and inspire visions. People like and remember vignettes better than ratios and percentages. But if Board members, C-suiters and general counsel believe that anecdotes and apocrypha bring decisional clarity, I part company (See my post of Nov. 24, 2005 on the bromide, can’t manage what can’t measure.). Facts persuade certain kinds of thinkers; stories sway others; neither rhetoric is privileged.

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