Counting the beat


With numbers, leverage matters more than materiality.
‘Data-driven decision making’ is only better if you collect and merge the right kinds of data.
Sometimes you need a stand-alone crystal ball, not a fully-integrated computer system.
Absolute value changes and percentage changes; like heads and tails on a coin. You need both to get the full value.
The plural of anecdote isn’t data.
Accountants count the cost, when strategists fail to differentiate themselves.
Behind most good text and noble speeches are great numbers.


Materiality and Leverage. Sibling rivalry or dream team?

Some people seem to live by materiality. Critical mass. Mounting a disaster relief effort to deliver the greatest relief for the greatest number. Making a decision on the balance of probability, or the weight of pros stacked up against the weight of cons. Letting the market decide. Judging success by box-office ratings. Judging guilt when it’s beyond reasonable doubt. Judging success on the overall number of votes. Monitoring averages and total magnitudes. Have lots of children, so some will hopefully survive.

Other people seem to live by leverage. Checking if the high profile critic they respect agrees with them (regardless of what the masses think). Using the opposition’s strength against them. Using their assets to their advantage. Choosing to have fewer children, to devote more attention to each. Analysing the outliers, not the crowd behaviour. Saving the last two animals at all costs, to prevent extinction. Leading by example. Saving the World one person at a time -after all, the child they save today may be tomorrow’s equivalent of Nelson Mandela. Einstein or Shakespeare.

In the business world, arguably it’s sibling rivalry. Accounting is rooting for materiality. Strategy, a fan of leverage. Maybe that’s the problem. And the opportunity. Is there a way accountants can see past materiality? And a way for strategists to be better strategists by embracing materiality?

In the entertainment world, arguably it’s sibling rivalry. People try to use every talent they have (leverage) to achieve success. With intense competition, fame can be short-lived and the scrapping is entertainment itself for many watchers.. The dignity in the industry might rise if critics were more generous about the long run performance of the entertainer (materiality).

In the high performance sports world, arguably it’s sibling rivalry – people seek a personal best time (over performance consistency) that exceeds the World record time, using all ethical technique and training effort (leverage).

In the legal world, arguably it’s a dream team. Consumer rights groups campaign by all means necessary (leverage) for improved professional ethics (material improvement in behaviour). Prosecution and defense lawyers do likewise for legal case outcomes.

In politics, it’s a dream team. Politicians use leverage (by all means necessary) to achieve popular support (sufficient votes to be re-elected) ie materiality. Sadly for them, voters use materiality when they can’t use leverage.