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Gary Cokins on Performance Management

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We Need Dustin Hoffman Again – Now to hear “Statistics” not “Plastics”

In an August 6, 2009 New York Times (NYT) article For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics I am reminded of the famous cinema quote of advice to Dustin Hoffman in his career breakthrough 1967 movie The Graduate. It occurs when a self-righteous Los Angeles businessman takes aside the baby-faced Dustin Hoffman and declares, "I just want to say one word to you – just one word – 'plastics.’ ”

This spotlight on statistics is apparently relevant because this news article ranked in that week’s top two NYT e-mailed articles (and sixth the following week) as tracked by the Times. The article cites an example of a Google employee who “uses statistical analysis of mounds of data to come up with ways to improve (Google’s) search engine.” It describes the employee as “an Internet-age statistician, one of many who are changing the image of the profession as a place for dronish number nerds. They are finding themselves increasingly in demand – and even cool.”

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