Quality Magazine

From the Editor: Numbers

January 31, 2012
Context and analysis are key to their understanding.



I am a three digit number. My tens digit is five more than my ones digit. My hundreds digit is eight less than my tens digit. What number am I?

If this were TV or radio, this is when you would hear the theme song from “Jeopardy,” but since this is print, I’ll just ask, “Do you have it?” It’s the number 194.

This is just one example of “numerous” number riddles. They are designed to test logic and, in many cases, trick the mind. To a lesser extent, these riddles remind me of those middle school word problems. You remember them. They usually start out with a train leaving Chicago traveling to Philadelphia at 60 mph, another leaving Philadelphia bound for Chicago at the same time traveling 80 mph and a question asking which of the trains will arrive at its destination first. The problem also will tell the reader how far these cities are from one another, but invariably the problem also will contain information that is of no concern to the question. The folks who design these questions are not necessarily trying to trick the reader, but focus attention on context-what matters to the question.

Context and focus. They are a major tenant of logic. A pile of numbers is just that, a pile. Without context and analysis, they mean nothing. The information that doesn’t matter to the task at hand is just noise. But we take this pile and give it context and analyze what it means and we gain knowledge. And knowledge is power.

So, I invite you to feel powerful about the subject of leadership with the analysis of Quality’s Leadership 100 Survey and how good data means good decisions with this month’s Quality feature article, "Good Data = Good Decisions."

In addition, this month’s Quality Innovation discusses software that easily compiles data and automatically transforms the data into well-known chart formats for easy analysis.

As always, enjoy and thanks for reading!