Life in the C-suite: An graph that is both ugly and bad, and an unrelated story

February 23, 2013

(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Jemes Keirstead sends along this infographic:

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 5.14.00 PM

He hates it:

First we’ve got an hourglass metaphor wrecked by the fact that “now” (i.e. the pinch point in the glass) is actually 3-5 years in the future and the past sand includes “up to three years” in the future. Then there are the percentages which are appear to represent a vertical distance, not volume of sand or width of the hourglass. Add to that a strange color scheme in which green goes from dark to light to dark again.

I know January’s not even finished yet, but surely a competitor for worst infographic of 2013?

Keirstead doesn’t even comment on what I see as the worst aspect of the graph, which is that the “3-5 years” band is the narrowest on the graph, but expressed as a per-year rate it is actually the highest of all the percentages. The hourglass visualization does the astounding feat of taking the period where the executives expect the highest rate of change and presenting it as a minimum in the graph.

All ugliness aside, this reminds me of a story that I haven’t had a chance to share . . . until now. The bit on the above infographic about “C-level execs” reminds me of something that happened a couple years ago, when I was invited to speak at an event, “called “The 2012 Election: Predicted Outcomes and Implications for Your Business,” for “an association of C-suite executives.” I responded that I was interested and told them my fee, to which they responded:

I am glad to hear that you are interested in this opportunity. However, we don’t compensate speakers as we find that most are interested in the opportunity to be in front of a room full of high quality C-suite executives.

Is that for real? I speak to all sorts of people for free (for example, I just spoke last month at a datatviz meetup), but I was surprised to hear that an association of business executives weren’t planning to pay. So I declined. I say this not to imply that I’m some sort of anti-corporate crusader (after all, I would’ve been happy to talk for pay!) but to express my bafflement at the whole “C-level executive” thing. What’s going on with that?

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