Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The letter and the number

People usually say math is a language, and when I was younger at school, it was certainly as impenetrable as Sanskrit.

Fast forward to present times, my finance team struggle to structure a convincing email to ask my clients to pay, and my engineering university mates could not make a symphony out of words even if their lives depended on it.

Are verbal and numerical dexterities really so different, that we cannot grapple with both in tandem?

I suppose with the cheem words I've just used, it might be "yah duh?"

Many of my course mates in geography are put off by statistics, numbers and all sorts of numerical representations. A wall of text is our SOP. I've always found that amusing, because we're so infatuated with the written word, we completely close off ourselves to the other half of the world that speaks a different language. It might take more effort for me to fiddle with numbers and trust me, it wasn't an easy process. However it must be done or we risk alienating ourselves from having meaningful conversations with people very different from us.

On the other bank, people who work primarily with math and equation, can benefit greatly from the swaying power of words. Words behave like a seductive mistress, caressing your subconscious and draws you toward certain outcomes. The directness of math and the poetry of translating that into other aspects that keep our work going, cannot be understood and appreciated if business propositions are not written, emails not crafted and grant applications not filled out.

The sword and the shield are both equally important in battle. Increasingly I'm starting to read numbers and discursively analyse my campaign results by looking beyond the "text" and drawing links between cause and effect. Then explaining using words to rationally lay out the facts while at the same time phrase it in ways where clients can be convinced by both word and number.

We of course cannot straddle both well at the same time. I'm not suggesting we become extremely adept at both. But it's always good to explore what's on the other side and learn what we can to help enrich our own backyard.

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