I hated maths when I was younger. It felt like numbers were out to get me.
I’m not sure when my dislike started but I certainly remember sitting staring at my Higher Maths paper (a long, long time ago in Scotland) wondering if I had actually walked into a exam for Swahili.
It was an epic fail. Literally 33%.
I tried again the following year. After the mock, I was called to the Head of Year. Being told that my attendance at class was terrible (it was) and that I’d failed (again). Honestly, a small part of me was a bitty crushed.
I plucked up the courage to ask, ‘what did I get?‘. She replied with total disgust ‘44%’.
I can remember punching the air and saying ‘yes!‘. The look on her face told me this was clearly not the appropriate act of contrition she was looking for.
You see, this experienced teacher hadn’t taken the time to ask a simple question, ‘Why don’t you go to class?‘ She hadn’t stopped to consider why I was only struggling in maths. She hadn’t stopped to consider ‘me‘. She had her script and she ran with it. She had her perspective and didn’t bother to ask for more information.
Had she asked, it would have all poured out. That I couldn’t understand the relationship with what we did as exercises and how the questions looked in the exam paper. That I was overwhelmed with panic at the idea of sitting through yet another class pretending I knew what the hell was going on. That I was terrified that I would never get to University if I couldn’t get my head around linear equations. That I felt like I was the only one in the universe that couldn’t understand quadratic equations.
If she had, maybe she would have understood my triumph and maybe even have had the opporuntity to share it.
You see, in my reality, I had significantly improved. I’d inched nearer to a pass. Ok, definitely not ever going to be accepted in the Maths Hall of Fame but only 6% and I’d be over the line….
Why do I tell you this? Because when I went to University suddenly the maths failure found herself doing quantitative reseach – stats. Yeah. You hear me. I got through it. Then I did my Masters thesis – more stats. Turns out numbers weren’t so scary after all, not if they had a story to tell.
Now don’t get me wrong, numbers aren’t my go-to-happy-place (I certainly have PhD colleagues from Finance who seem to revel in big data sets and multi-level modelling – too much cleaning for me), but I am more of a ‘let’s have a un/structured conversation‘ type of researcher, however, when I started to consider the business case for my services, I began to realise the power lies in the numbers.
You see when we are talking about business, it’s all well and good for me to rock up and say ‘hey, life in your Firm is going to be so much better if you just let me come in and do my psychology thing for your staff’, but there’s an important truth about how ‘work‘ works. Whilst we work in teams, and have shared objects of interest (called the sachen for those who are a bit geeky), our understanding of these shared objects are definitionally different.
Say what? Translation: We are talking about different things using the same words.
When we talk about collaboration we can easily understand and accept that the psychologist is concerned for the mental health of the team and that the lawyer is concerned for their client’s case presentation. That makes us feel very worthy, but what about the Business Manager?
Uff money? No, no, no. Let’s not be so crass as to talk about that. This a debate about doing what is ‘right‘, with no recourse to such coarse finanical concerns.
Well, here’s what I know from my research about high functioning teams – and I mean elite fiunctioning teams – everyone in the team has their needs met and everyone sees the benefits of the collaboration.
And so, yes I had to shake hands with numbers again, because when I looked at the literature out there to see the bottomline benefits of what I provide, to my utter astonishment, no-one had even done some basic addition.