In past blog entries I’ve been very critical of Authors using weak anecdotal evidence to support their subversive arguments. It can certainly be dazzling to readers (and may help sell books), but when authors support their arguments by using only stories from their own experience, they usually lack real statistical evidence. A story can be a fun way to learn about an issue, but just because something happened in one case (in the story), it does not mean that it happens in all cases.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about “experience.” Experience is generally a good thing and among professionals it could even be considered the most valuable trait a person could have. In press releases announcing new management hires, nothing wins instant respect and acceptance for your new manager like touting 20+ years of relevant experience.

But what is experience if not a collection of anecdotes that you draw on to help solve problems? Why are these anecdotes valuable for professionals, but frowned upon when authors use them to prove their points? It seems to me that when it comes to making decisions and proving points, there is a dichotomy between

experience and statistics. You need statistics to support your decisions, but you need experience to identify the decisions that need to be made.

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