SXSW — Anything but Average

by: Matthew Anderson, CMO

Taking in the experiences and sessions of SXSW so far, I was struck by one topic in particular – The End of Average, a session by Todd Rose, Harvard professor at the Graduate School of Education. He talked about how and when we have used big data to determine the statistical averages to create things in the physical world and in things like education, and completely and utterly failing.

One example was the US military designing the interior of their fighter plane cockpits to the “average” body size taken after a huge study examining over 100 measurement data points of 4,000 pilots. What they were left with was a fleet of planes with a cockpit perfectly designed for the average pilot, but the problem was that only 2% of their pilots were actually statistically average.

This type of example set the stage for Todd Rose’s bigger point about how we use and act on data. In his book, The End of Average, Rose, he convincingly shows that no one is average—Not me. No you. Not your kids. Not your talent (employees). It’s a mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences.

People learn and develop in distinctive ways, but this fact is lost in our school system and in how we treat talent in businesses, which have been designed around the mythical “average person.” This average-size-fits-all model ignores our differences and fails at recognizing talent. It’s time to change it.

As marketers, there is also something to be learned about how we read and act on data in our communications. Although we can’t ignore the statistical averages, we need to be looking more for the micro data that allows us to better engage with the individual.

Matthew is responsible for driving growth for MMC. He oversees all aspects of Corporate Strategy, Branding, Marketing, PR and Business Development. Matthew loves tackling a client’s biggest issues. He has a proven history of building businesses and teams, a deep understanding of the digital environment, is a passionate promoter of agency culture, and holds the belief that anyone can make a difference.

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