Book Club: Making Numbers Count

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If your job is to communicate policy and make sense of it, you need Making Numbers Count – The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers by Chip Health and Karla Starr. Numbers are the bedrock of policy (or they should be) but they are scary to 99.9% of people – including the people you need to engage and move. Graphs and charts are great tools, but some numbers need words to explain them. For example, the US national debt is $27 trillion – versus – The US national debt is $82,000 per citizen. Or a very small percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs are women – there are more men named James than there are women. The difference between a million and a billion – a million seconds is 12 days, a billion seconds is 32 years. The authors give  readers a set of bite-sized tips/guides for translating numbers so they are understood. Tips include Try focusing on 1 at a time, Convert abstract numbers into concrete objects, and Make it personal. There are hundreds of very concrete examples to help guide your translating. Florence Nightingale has her own chapter describing how she got Generals and policymakers to implement battlefield health improvements that are still saving lives. It’s a quick and engaging read, that makes numbers fascinating. Highly recommended.