Practical Way to Learn Statistics
Join Chris and Fred as they discuss statistics and how we can better use them in a practical way. Statistics are often seen as a concept to avoid at all costs. Or pretend to know without really knowing. As they say … there are lies, damn lies and statistics. So what can we do to have statistics help us in a more meaningful way?
- Make statistics relatable. Many ‘learning’ institutions start statistical education with a jar with a bunch of red/blue or black/white beads in it. And then proceed to talk about how statistics can apply to the number of beads you might randomly select. But who carries around jars full of beads? … and who makes important business decisions based on jars of beads? Why do this? A little more thinking can quickly identify real-world scenarios that mean something to students. And THAT is when we start to remember concepts.
- Don’t confuse ‘statistics experts’ with ‘statistics gatekeepers.’ Statistics gatekeepers are those annoying people in many organizations who enjoy having the power to stop anything as opposed to help people. That is, they sit in quality, reliability or design reviews and explain how everything has been done wrong, everything needs to be more complicated, and how everyone has (once again) failed to meet their lofty expectations regarding statistics. They know enough to be intimidating to those around them. But they don’t know enough to be helpful. So they add no value, keep having their egos challenged, and are otherwise avoided. So no one is happy.
- And it starts with teaching. Chris talked about a Statistical Process Control (SPC) course he is developing which is based on breadmaking. The statistic he was using as the central example was ‘chewability.’ This sounds like a ‘made up’ abstract metric that can’t really be applied in an objective way. But it can! In fact – there are really expensive test rigs that are able to measure the hardness and elasticity of bread that is analogous to what we would describe as ‘chewy.’ The point is … everyone knows or can relate to sliced bread. And the fact that ‘chewability’ is a novel metric (at least to students) makes it interesting. So people remember it.
- But because many statistics courses aren’t fun … they aren’t done. Many undergraduate engineers manage to get their degree without ever doing a statistics course. This is a damning indictment on learning institutions. Starting with universities that employ professors who aren’t interested in crafting a message that is more interesting than jars of beads. Which one of the many reasons Accendo Reliability’s statistics articles and courses are so popular …
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