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Here are 15 Common Data Fallacies to Avoid

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In today’s tech-driven economy, data is essential for gaining new insights, making decisions, and building products.

In fact, there is so much data out there, that the quantity of it is doubling every two years – and by 2020, there will be 45,000 exabytes of data in existence.

This is an unprecedented figure, and it’s hard to put into perspective. To give you some sense, a single exabyte is equal to 1,000,000,000 GB of data, and five exabytes has been said to be roughly equal to “all of the words ever spoken by mankind”.

Common Fallacies With Data

As you can imagine, digging through all of this data can be quite the challenge.

Data comes in many different forms and not all of them are easy to analyze. As a result, it is tempting to take shortcuts with data, or to try and fit data into our pre-conceived notions of how things ought to be.

Today’s infographic comes to us from Geckoboard and it shows the common mistakes that people make in analyzing data. We’ve reformatted their PDF to fit here.

15 Common Data Fallacies

Here are 15 Common Data Fallacies to Avoid

How do we avoid painting a bullseye around the arrow, so that we can interpret the meaning of data in a logical, consistent, and methodological way?

The key is to understand common mistakes that people make with data, and why these errors skew our interpretations.

Examples of Fallacies

Here are four in-depth examples of fallacies, and why each is considered a faux-pas by data scientists.

Survivorship Bias

When people analyze the qualities it takes to be a good entrepreneur, we typically look at the existing population of successful entrepreneurs for clues. However, by limiting our sample just to this “surviving” group of entrepreneurs, we run the risk of survivorship bias.

There are certainly lessons we can learn from all of the entrepreneurs who have failed – they are just much harder to find. Integrating that data into the story can help complete a much fuller picture.

False Causality

Did you know that there is a 95% correlation between the marriage rate in Kentucky and the amount of people who drown each year from falling out of fishing boats? (See it, an other bizarre correlations here)

Kentucky marriages vs. people who drown

Does this mean that there is some sort of relationship between the two variables?

Finding a high level of correlation can happen simply by chance – but awarding false causality is one of the most amateur statistical mistakes in the book.

The Gambler’s Fallacy

If the roulette wheel turns up black for 26 times in a row, does that mean that it will revert back to red?

It’s easy to say that the odds don’t change, but imagine being in the moment. The Gambler’s Fallacy happens with data analysis as well: just because something happens unusually frequently over a period of time doesn’t mean that nature will “even it out”.

The Cobra Effect

Data can be used to measure progress in achieving business goals, but what if there is incentive to game these goals?

Wells Fargo, in an effort to upsell existing clients, introduced an incentive called “eight is great”. In short, their employees were encouraged to sell eight accounts per customer, which could take the form of credit cards, savings accounts, and other financial services.

In an example of good intentions gone awry, Wells Fargo employees began breaking the rules to meet their targets. Millions of unauthorized credit card and deposit accounts were opened based on this perverse incentive, and the bank was eventually ordered to pay a $142 million settlement.

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How People and Companies Feel About Working Remotely

During the pandemic, millions of people have transitioned to working remotely. But how do workers and managers actually feel about it?

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remote and flexible working

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce, and half of all “information workers”, are able to work from home. Though the number of people working partially or fully remote has been on the rise for years now, the COVID-19 pandemic may have pressed the fast-forward button on this trend.

With millions of people taking part in this work-from-home experiment, it’s worth asking the question – how do people and companies actually feel about working from home?

The Flex Life

It’s no secret that people value freedom of choice. A whopping 98% of people would like to have the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers.

Aside from working in sweatpants, what are the things people like about working from home?

benefits of working remotely

A flexible schedule, the ability to work from any location, and no more commuting were the top reported benefits.

Of course, not everything is positive about working from home. Here are some of the challenges people face as they work remotely.

struggles of remote workers

The top issue faced by remote workers was “unplugging” from work. Without the clear-cut change of location and defined office hours, many people had a tougher time clearly dividing their personal and professional time.

As well, the lack of person-to-person communication can be a challenge for some people. In fact, one-third of people were concerned that the full extent of their professional efforts wouldn’t be appreciated because of a lack of in-office contact.

remote working struggles

For the majority of people, having tough conversations via phone or teleconferencing software was actually viewed as a positive development.

Barriers to Implementing a Remote Work Policy

Despite the popularity of remote and flexible working, not every company has embraced the concept. Here are some of the reasons why.

remote working obstacles

While there can be technical or security-related reasons behind remote work resistance, a major barrier is simple resistance to change. Over 50% of companies that didn’t have a flexible or remote workplace policy cited “longstanding company policy” as the reason. In other words, that is just the way things have always worked.

Here are the reservations managers have with remote work:

manager concerns with remote teams

Managers are worried that productivity and focus will be diminished if people are working in more informal locations, such as home or a cafe. Also, if people aren’t working in the same physical location, managers feel that team cohesiveness and company culture could suffer.

On the flip side, the cost savings associated with remote work may win over many companies. Research has found that typical employer can save about $11,000 per year for every person who works remotely half of the time. As well, switching to virtual meets in some instances can also be a significant cost savings.

Flexibility: The Ultimate Perk?

Location flexibility isn’t just a way to keep current employees happy. Companies that don’t embrace flexible working may find themselves at a disadvantage when recruiting new talent. Nearly two-thirds of candidates say that having a choice of work location is a key consideration in choosing an employer.

remote working and attracting talent

Lockdown measures have highlighted the value of workplace flexibility – particularly for people with kids. A total of 86% of parents now want to work flexibly, compared to 46% pre-coronavirus.

As the economy slowly begins to reopen, it remains to be seen whether or not COVID-19 accelerated inevitable trends in workplace culture. If so, taking Zoom calls in sweatpants may become the new normal for millions of workers.

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Misc

Visualizing the Power and Frequency of Earthquakes

Our planet is in a constant state of creation and destruction as the plates of the earth collide. This visualization looks at earthquake magnitude.

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Earthquake Magnitude

Visualizing the Power and Frequency of Earthquakes

The surface of our planet is in a constant state of creation and destruction as the plates of the Earth collide. It is this movement of the Earth’s crust that causes earthquakes, sending tremors throughout the world.

Today’s graphic is inspired by a classic USGS diagram that tracks the scale and frequency of earthquakes.

Shifting Foundations

Earthquakes occur because the crust of the Earth is made up of several plates. The boundaries of these plates create faults that can run into one another.

Earthquakes describe both the mechanism that causes a sudden stress release along plate boundaries and also the ensuing ground shaking.

They occur when stress builds up along a tectonic fault. This stress causes the two surfaces of the fault, which had previously been stuck together due to friction, to suddenly move, or slide, releasing energy in the form of seismic waves.

Measuring an Earthquake’s Impact

There are three factors to assess the impact of Earthquakes – magnitude, energy, and intensity.

Magnitude is a number most commonly associated with the Richter scale, describing the size of an Earthquake on a scale from 0 to 10 – the latter of which is the maximum motion recorded by a seismograph. Each increase by one on the scale represents a tenfold increase in the amplitude. There are over a million tremors around the planet each year, but it’s not until an earthquake reaches a magnitude of 4 that humans can typically feel it.

Another way to measure the size of an earthquake is by how much energy it releases. The amount of energy radiated by an earthquake is a measure of the potential for damage to man-made structures.

An earthquake releases energy at various frequencies, and in order to calculate accurately, you have to include all frequencies of shaking for the entire event. Some research suggests technology could harness this energy for power generation.

Intensity describes the severity of an earthquake with a qualitative evaluation of its effects on the Earth’s surface and on the built environment. An earthquake may have a high magnitude but if a city or landscape experiences little damage, it can be said that the intensity is low. The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale measures this intensity.

The World’s Largest Earthquakes by Magnitude

Prior to the development and use of seismographs, around 1900, scientists could only estimate magnitudes, based on historical reports of the extent and severity of damage.

DateLocationMagnitude
May 22, 1960Valdivia, Chile9.4-9.6
March 27, 1964Prince William Sound, Alaska9.2
Dec. 26, 2004Indian Ocean, Sumatra, Indonesia9.1
March 11, 2011Pacific Ocean, Tohoku Region, Japan9.1
July 8, 1730Valparaiso, Chile9.1-9.3 (est.)
Nov. 4, 1952Kamchatka, Russia9
Aug. 13, 1868Arica, Chile8.5-9.0 (est.)
January 26, 1700Pacific Coast, Modern Day British Columbia8.7-9.2 (est.)
April 2, 1762Chittagong, Bangladesh8.8 (est.)
Nov. 25, 1833Sumatra Indonesia8.8 (est.)

Earthquakes are a fact of life on Earth and mark distinct moments in history. One would think given our knowledge of earthquakes, that humans would avoid these locations – however, the very faults of the Earth also create its greatest advantages.

Living with Your Faults

It’s extremely common to find human settlements along the fault lines where earthquakes occur most frequently. Some could say that this is because these decisions were made before a complete understanding of science enabled us to know the potential risks involved.

However, a recent scientific study reveals that there may be more to the pattern than previously thought. Tectonically active plates may have produced greater biodiversity, more food, and water for our human predecessors.

Certain landscape features formed by tectonic processes such as cliffs, river gorges, and sedimentary valleys create environments that support access to drinking water, shelter, and an abundant food supply.

This inherent problem reveals that humans are more connected to their environments than previously thought. It comes down to a question of how well humans can adapt their lifestyle and built environments to a dynamic planet.

Now let’s worry about the asteroids

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