How to Use Data to Evade Questions

AirBNB co-founder Brian Chesky's master spin class.

AirBNB

Introduction

Few things rankle me more than sweeping generalizations devoid of data and proper sources. This is the hallmark of a few prolific and well-regarded bloggers and reporters. Still, it’s folly to think that using a torrent of statistics equates to really answering questions—let alone well.

Case in point: AirBNB co-founder Brian Chesky and his master spin class on Bloomberg. Armed with soundbite-friendly talking points and plenty of supporting data, he proceeds to ignore answering reporters’ simple questions. Don’t believe me, though. Judge for yourself.

By the way, incorrectly using the term use case never made anyone appear more forthright.

Finding a Happy Medium in an Era of Big Data

Incorrectly using the term use case never made anyone appear more forthright.

Somewhere in between “no data” and “all data” lies a happy medium. Used correctly and in moderation, statistics can buttress an argument. By the same token, a lack of data implies one of several things:

  • That the person hasn’t done his or her homework
  • That the data doesn’t in fact exist
  • That the person was lazy (read: didn’t take the time to do the research)
  • That the person didn’t think that data mattered

If finding relevant data were difficult and time-consuming, then perhaps these mistakes could be tolerated if not forgiven. It’s not 1970, though, and hasn’t been for a long time. Today, there’s enough data out there today to argue just about anything today. A simple Google search can seemingly prove or disprove even the most ridiculous theories.

Simon Says: Good communication involves more than reflexively reciting statistics and data.

To be sure, there are plenty of legitimate uses for data and statistics. Evading questions and trying to bulldoze reporters, though, don’t qualify.

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