DISCOVERING VALUE

Traditionally people don't like mathematics, but they seem keen to work out what others owe them and what change they should get in the shop.

I overheard a couple of people talking in a shop. They were looking at some potion or the other. They said, 'It contains Vitamin C, so it must be good.' They were making a fundamental mistake. And a very common mistake.

How MUCH Vitamin C did it contain?

And,

What is the SIGNIFICANCE of this amount?

If Vitamin C is good for you, then the amount you need for that good effect is important. If you have too much, its probably bad. If you have too little, then it won't do any good. The twice Nobel prize winning champion of Vitamin suggested that you should take mega-doses, that is several grams a day. If the potion contains only a few milligrams, then it probably won't work. (This is not the nutrition mailing list so take this with a pinch of salt. Don't forget to ask: How much salt and what is the significance of that amount!!!) (-:)

These are two essential questions that should pop into your mind whenever there is the remotest possibility that quantity is involved. If you hate mathematics, then steel yourself, because these questions can take you a long way.

There is a chance the operation may kill you.

How much of a chance?

What, specifically, is the significance of that chance?

People do not understand probabilities. If the chance is 1% then that might be OK. Sometimes a 50% chance is OK. It depends on what the alternative is.

In the UK 2 out of 3 people do the Lottery. They have more chance of being run over by a bus than winning a substantial amount. They do not believe they will be run over by a bus, but they do believe in some way they will win the lottery. They wouldn't buy insurance against being run over by a bus, but they waste their money on gambling!

The point is that we need to have some idea of the significance of any value.

You'll get a good discount.

How much of a discount?

What is the significance of this amount of discount?

Values are largely comparisons. And we have already learned how to deal with comparisons.

This is a good deal.

COMPARED with what?

She is strong.

COMPARED with whom?

We can now add the quantity questions:

This is a good deal.

How much of a good deal, specifically?

Sometimes we can't use numbers to answer these questions. We use comparisons.

I want this greener.

How much greener?

Well, greener than that. (Points to something green.)

This is a better college.

How much better?

What is the significance of this?

You will live longer if you take my advice.

Now, living longer may seem like something good. If the advice is to run for 4 hours a day, give up smoking and lovers, and eat only peanuts. Then we might not even bother to ask any questions! But if it was something reasonable we might ask:

How much longer?

What is the significance to this?

If you would live an hour longer, it might not be very significant, unless you were about to expire in the next minute!

Many statements seem to make sense or be attractive because we do not know what the quantities involved are.

You'll earn a lot of money working there.

How much, specifically?

A lot of people like this idea.

How many, specifically?

Don't forget to ask yourself or the speaker:

What is the significance of this?

It is said that one of the secrets of wealth is to know value. Certainly a lot of bamboozling involves statements with undetermined values. A statement can sound good, as long as it isn't quantified.

A variation of this is:

You get 10% discount on this.

How much money, exactly is that?

10% of a penny isn't really worth anything, is it?

The Being Specific Model is valuable only if you learn it well and use it. So if you need to refresh check out the appropriate Web Site for the back postings.

Don't forget to give feedback!

Best wishes,

Ken Ward

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Most Recent Revision: 20-Mar-99.