Graphic Sensitivity Analysis

There I was watching Newsnight last night the old-fashioned way, when yet another gloom-laden report into all things credit-crunch was lightened up by some BBC lackey not being able to pop up a key graphic on cue.  That’ll be a 5-day Powerpoint course in the Maldives rushing their way now, no doubt.  It clearly tickled Paxo, as poor Paul Mason struggled to connect a blank screen to his prepared oratory.

When the graph did appear, it was startling.  The Bank Of England Flat Earthers reckoned on only a 5 to 6 Quarter recession.  I guess we’ve all tired of so-called policy-makers being hopelessly behind the curve, but what made this particular graphic interesting was its use of sensitivity analysis.

The front page of the Guardian today highlights the graphic flaws in this approach when trying to persuade someone of something positive by dint of prominence to their take on the same figures.  The difference between this and Newsnight’s, is that rather than a single etched red-dotted line to indicate the future, they opt instead to broaden it out.

In the infinite absence of accurate future predicitons, showing a range, rather than an absolute, of possible outcomes is surely a winner.  And for us sellers it surely must be an approach adopted on all of our spangly RoI business cases we produce.

I recently heard the top-bean counter at a UK division of a ~€3bn outfit say that he’d stopped believing business cases shown to him by visiting reps.   He’d apparently never experienced one materialising.

Getting out the crayons and colouring-in a parabola just like you’re back in the third form would show common sense and create a debate framed by you.  Both increase the chances of success.

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