29 June 2009

June 30, 2009

I started my first blog end of March last year. As a market researcher I’m obsessed with figures. As a co founder of MarketResponse, a market research and consultancy in the Netherlands I discovered at that time that on the first of February next year, my company will celebrate its 25th birthday. Now as I started to write blog I found out two things. First of all that the countdown to the previously mentioned birthday was 666 days. Well, that is a message in itself isn’t it? Great coincidence or some bad guidance from hell? I did not know until I wrote down the birthday in figures (in Dutch annotation: 01022010. A Palindrome

Well that is something as well I thought and started to blog. The world we live in is full of hidden symbols and great numbers. As an experienced researcher I’ve presented numerous numbers. ‘Probably’ the number 1 was presented most. It seems that this was researched a long time ago. I will never forget the importance of probability distributions and statistical errors. In the early eighties I acted as project manager to measure the distribution of a leaflet called Shell Helpt. A consumer oriented leaflet, in which Shell gave numerous suggestions, dos and don’ts how to maintain your car successfully. The aim of the study was to measure the % of complete distribution on household level in the Netherlands (i.e. people in the sample had to report whether they had received a Shell Helpt leaflet, being the same species as we had sent them a few days before). Although it was a great study design with three stage sampling (random selection of cities, followed by random selection of streets, followed by quota sampling of 12 addresses) procedure I was not quite savvy to write a valid report. Statistical studies had indicated that in a certain street 5 consumers had to confirm ‘yes’ to be ‘sure’ that distribution had taken place. Still there was a small chance that people would say yes, when there was no distribution. On the other hand also there was a chance that respondents would report a ‘no’ whilst distribution actually had taken place, but we only had to find 2 no’s per street in order to know for sure. People tend to report more ‘yes’ more easily than ‘no’. I reported (after vast calculations) a 93% distribution success rate, added the standard error but multiplied it by two times a 1, 96 factor (used when looking for 95% confidence level). Obviously that was wrong. Client was not pleased after they found out and I felt bad. Yes it would cost the distributor money since I had been too generous. Actually I helped Shell, but not in the right way. Anyhow this is way before my career started to move. I still love statistics but probability sampling is something I leave to specialists. To me it is complexity. I will therefore report more qualitative experiences over the next few days.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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