3 Kinds of Lies…


Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I spent several years in market research and saw my share of numbers that, at the very least, misled.

However, in business, numbers are critical. P&L can determine compensation, market research can alter product plans, and crime statistics can change the number of law enforcement officers. While numbers have power, they aren’t as persuasive as we have been led to believe. If you want to change someone’s mind, you’d better have a story.

If you’re like me, you remember seeing anti-smoking commercials that spouted statistics about health risks for smokers. You’ve probably seen the latest wave of commercials sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Tips from Former Smokers.”

Without going into gruesome detail, the commercials graphically show what has happened to former smokers. Each 30-second spot tells the story of one former smoker and the devastating effect on his/her life. The stories include amputations, heart surgeries, breathing stomas, and difficult pregnancies. If you’ve seen the commercials (started in 2012), you know¬† how powerful and effective they are.

As a presenter, follow the CDC’s lead. Instead of showing a slide with your corporate history, tell the story of the company’s formation. Follow the hero’s journey model ( This model is elaborate, so you may need to shorten it. If you are citing successes of past clients, tell one customer’s story rather than just showing their before and after P&L.

To convince someone to take a new step, you must appeal to their emotional brain as well as their rational brain. Remember that humans generally don’t have emotional responses to excel spreadsheets!

Do Less to Do More

Brain WorkoutFor years I’ve talked about how taking 10-minute breaks about every hour can benefit memory. It turns out that a similar formula is also the key to your productivity. According to some research done by the Draugiem Group, the formula is even less intense than that!

The Draugiem group found that the most productive 10% of workers employed a pattern of working intensely for 52 minutes and then took approximately 17-minute breaks. This is very similar to the exercise program I love/hate, burst training. In burst training, I exercise very intensely for a short time (the duration depends on the complexity and difficulty of the movement) and recover until I’m ready to go again.

Keep in mind that 52 and 17 are averages. You should find what works best for you and for the projects you’re working on. What’s critical is that the breaks you take give you energy back. Get away from your computer and your office, when you can. Visit a colleague, go for a walk, call a friend meditate for a few minutes or exercise a little.

Try it out for a week. Here are a couple of tips that may help:

  • Schedule breaks in your calendar when possible. We all have times when we have back-to-back-to-back meetings, but do what you can.
  • Set a timer for 52 minutes and take a break around that time.
  • Make your to do lists realistic and break large jobs into smaller tasks.

Intrigued? For some more information read this (or cut and paste