When published in 2018, Hans Rosling's book Factfulness instantly gained some high profile endorsement, especially from Bill Gates who called it ‘one of the most important books I’ve ever read – an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world’.
Gates rated the book so highly that he reportedly sent every student graduating in the USA in 2018 a free copy.
Born in Sweden in 1948, Rosling trained as a doctor and worked in some of the world’s most deprived countries. While there, he realised the importance of good information. He witnessed how an accurate picture of events could stop diseases from spreading.
He went on to work with the United Nations, and founded an organisation called the Gapminder Foundation, describing its mission as ‘to fight devastating ignorance with a fact-based worldview’.
The IMA became aware of Hans Rosling’s work some years ago when we referenced him as an expert in data visualisation, and we would recommend all Insight professionals to watch his TED talks and the YouTube clips of his beautifully automated bubble charts. They represent great case studies in how to convey very complex data in an engaging and easy-to-understand format.
But Factfulness goes beyond demonstrating how data visualisation can help to communicate insights. Its central message is that:
‘People constantly and intuitively refer to their worldview when thinking, guessing or learning. If your worldview is wrong, you will systematically make the wrong guesses.’
It is an uplifting read, demonstrating how the world is usually not as dramatic as you might think, and making the case that there are lots of bad things out there, but far fewer than ever before. It should be on everyone’s reading list for this summer.
The IMA believes it is also one of the most important books ever written about Insight, despite the fact that it never actually mentions Insight at all...
Why is this relevant to Insight teams?
Before becoming Chief Executive of the IMA, I worked for one of the world’s biggest banks for 20 years, spending over half of that time leading all its analysis of retail customers and markets. An important part of that role was to run data-based investigations into critical business issues, supplying decision-makers with facts, figures, insights, ideas and recommendations for how new propositions should be launched, new channels developed, and customer needs addressed.
The problem I experienced in those years was not that senior people didn’t know particular statistics, it’s rather that they tended to have constructed their whole corporate worldview without sufficient focus on the fundamental truths of how and why customers did business with the bank.
In daily conversations with corporate Insight leaders, the IMA finds that this same challenge exists across all sectors in the UK, Europe and North America. Most leaders have sympathy with Hans Rosling’s mission to ‘fight devastating ignorance with a fact-based worldview’.
Or to put it another way, they appreciate the critical need for their teams to develop ‘an Insight perspective’ and share this with senior decision-makers.
If you would like to know how to do this, the IMA’s Forum, Network and Digital members can now access the latest range of Insight leader guides. We have published 17 guides to date, including 6 guides looking at ways of developing our Insight people, one of them being IMP604: How to develop an Insight perspective.