Chip and Dan Heath discuss how to make your data stand out by building people’s intuition about your numbers. The key is to drag your numbers into the everyday:
A good statistic is one that aids a decision or shapes an opinion. For a stat to do either of those, it must be dragged within the everyday. That’s your job — to do the dragging. In our world of billions and trillions, that can be a lot of manual labor. But it’s worth it: A number people can grasp is a number that can make a difference.
Here’s one example from the article of how to put a number in a day-to-day context. This is also a good example of the importance of looking beyond stage one in order to avoid being “penny wise and pound foolish”:
Years ago, Cisco Systems was contemplating whether to install a wireless network for its employees (a “duh” decision today but not at the time). The company had calculated that it would cost roughly $500 per year, per employee to maintain the network. Was that worth it? Hard to say since we don’t have much intuition about $500 yearly expenses.
One employee brought the number into daily life, computing that given what Cisco paid its average employee, if the wireless network could save that worker one to two minutes per day, it would be a good investment. Suddenly, our intuition is activated. Can we imagine a situation where the network might save someone two minutes? Almost certainly yes. (Whereas if the network had required 52 minutes of daily savings to pay off, that would have been a hard sell.)