Does Your Grass Make It Rain?
I live in South Florida, where the grass grows year-round. But it didn’t take me long to realize it grows twice as fast during summer rainy season as it does the rest of the year.
Clearly, faster grass growth causes rain.
I also notice my family eats out a lot more in the rainy season. Obviously, rain makes us hungry and lazy, inspiring more visits to restaurants.
Or… is it possible I need to rethink a thing or two with these assessments? I’m sure you’ve spotted the flaws in my logic.
In the first example, I’ve got causation reversed: the rain speeds growth of our grass, not the other way around.
In the second example, the rain and our dining out are correlated, but neither causes the other. Instead, a third factor, the seasonal exodus of half the population, means there’s rarely a wait at any local eatery, and there are often great bargains to be had as well. Thus my family eats out much more often.
Muddled or illusory causality: it’s simple to spot in these examples I’ve spoon-fed you, but what about in your business? The moving parts we’re trying to measure and manipulate are much more complex, and the stakes far higher. Both of these things make mistakes more likely.
But please don’t take me to mean that you deserve a break if you get them wrong. Because you don’t. As a leader, if you haven’t mastered the difference between true causality and mere correlation, your board or your boss really should replace you.
As for me, I’m getting sick of cutting the grass so often. I think I’ll put the top down on my car so it stops raining. You know, because I’ve noticed it doesn’t rain when my roof is down.
For more on a similar vein, you’ll enjoy “If It Can Be Measured, It Can Be Manipulated.”
Photo by Jorlin