Dealing With False Math

Have you ever experienced the challenge of dealing with something that adds up, but doesn’t?

Unemployment is a good example (and this doesn’t relate to any political position). The current unemployment figure, as shared by the Federal Government is at 8.1%. However, that doesn’t take into account those individuals who are unemployed, but not looking for work. As such, it could be argued (and it is) that the figure isn’t accurate. Actually, it is accurate, but only when the parameters for inclusion in the figures are defined. Adults from the ages of 25 to 55 (the majority of the job market) are facing 7.1% unemployment (source: Department of Labor), while those in the 16 – 25 age group are facing 16.8% unemployment (source: Department of Labor). So, it’s when you combine elements, discard other elements, and then sum things up that the unemployment figures start to make sense.

This is also true for those of us in business. The concept of “spin” when related to any project can, if not carefully reviewed, position a project or objective toward a misguided or altered result.

We support our clients with technology, media, and brand consulting. To do so, we often engage with other third parties that are part of the overall process (new website, new IT infrastructure, new film, new branding, etc.). Overall, this has traditionally been a positive, collaborative process. These days, we’re seeing more “false math” relative to the need of our clients than ever before. And because companies are doing more with less (especially staffing), dependance on third party vendors is high.

One of our clients is working to improve their search engine visibility. This is at the baseline a simple process – if you know how SEO works and what process to follow. The vendor engaged by our client presented them with a PowerPoint, and within it, there are some good suggestions. However, there are some elements that have clearly been manipulated to “press home the point” of what the vendor was hired to achieve. The result is “false math” and a client who is overly stressed about how and when their content is going to be seen and followed up on.

This makes other partners, including ourselves, put in a position wherein we need to support the client, but we also need to avoid tossing the other vendor under the bus. Our tactic is to take any action we can to support the client, while also encouraging them to carefully review their objectives and desired results. One can only hope that in that process, the value of eliminating false math becomes clear.

As a partner to companies working round the clock to meet their objectives, we have a responsibility to share accurate information. We encourage all of our clients to ask questions, relax relative to the struggle for effective process, and focus on the outcome and efficiency. The end result is a stronger product and a happier customer.

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