Numb and Number

Abstract colorful speed background with lines in shape of track turn. Geometric and dynamic, trendy layout for racing club or sport competition, event poster. Futuristic and motion, race and linear

In the early 1950's, Grace Hopper was a computer science pioneer and the first U.S. Navy Head of Programming. She also invented the term “bug.” While teaching math, her students complained about being graded on their writing in a math class. Hopper’s position was clear-- if her students couldn’t communicate with people, it was useless to teach them math.

Hopper was incredibly forward thinking. While pressing her programmers to streamline their code, she held up a 984-foot bundle of wire to represent the distance electricity could travel in a microsecond. Hopper was able to make the complex simple by speaking concretely and visually, in terms anyone could grasp.

In his book Making Numbers Count Chip Heath says that experts stay in the abstract world of numbers because that’s how they solve problems. But for those of us who use numbers to make a case or pitch a deal, we must pull ourselves away from the abstract and communicate salient numbers in concrete terms.

Tools like client anecdotes, images, similes and metaphors enable others to understand faster, remember longer and avoid being numbed. Grace Hopper’s brilliant work earned her the title of Rear Admiral. When you speak, take a page from her playbook.

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