“Nathanael, no numbers!”
It was my first year in business school, early in the first semester. I was so excited about my newfound Excel and math skills. In every class discussion, I tried to present my numbers and an innovative formula. In every class. In every answer.
The fixation with numbers and formulas was not limited to me. Thirty people launching numeric missiles into the discussion confused things beyond all reason.
Mercifully, our teachers equipped us with a key tool.
Acton taught us sound mathematics and well-structured arguments. But far more important were the rules of discussion we learned to live by. This included interrupting anyone, at any time, to enforce the agreed upon rules. Thus, ‘no numbers.’
We were too new with numbers to get them right, much less communicate them clearly and thus contribute to the class discussions. So we established the no numbers rule. Why? The evidence of numbers disguised the logic of our arguments.
We were trying to communicate facts and logic, but talking numbers wasn’t communication. Stripping numbers out helped us expose our logic, and that’s what drove discussions forward.
What’s your corollary to the no numbers rule?
Debaters: your numbers could be evidence cards. Can you talk through your whole argument without quoting a source? Revise your planned speeches and present them without reading any cards.
This exercise will reveal a lot about your ability to think and talk clearly. What is your case’s underlying logic? Is it sound? What cards need to be stated to make the case?
Technologists: your numbers could be code. Are you talking about what you will script or what your scripts will do? Whose perspective should you approach a presentation from?
Talking to your non-C++ managers is different from talking to your programming gurus.
What are your numbers? How would stripping them from your talk make your communication better?
I have to disagree with this. Numbers don’t have to detract from the importance of a discussion. I had a 1AC last year that was supported heavily by numbers and it created a rock solid base for the case to stand upon.
Here’s why numbers are important.
Life in general is not about extremes. For example most of us would say that exercising is a good thing. How much should we exercise? How much food should we eat? When is a policy no longer justified?
Sure we can look back and see what ideology is being supported by any policy, but at some point we need numbers to shed light on what crosses the line of being too much.
That doesn’t mean you just spit numbers out and hope the judge connects numbers with your ideology and using comparisons to shed light on what the numbers mean.
For example a National Bottle Bill would save 34 million barrels of crude oil a year. How much is that? Think 3.3 Million households powered or the power of 4 modern nuclear power plants and that matters because of xyz…