President’s Friday Letter, 2-6-15

I was in Olympia yesterday (yes, again!). I heard something there that I will repeat here.

I’m not attempting to prolong our despair over the Super Bowl, but I heard a colleague present a “fact”.  Since I heard this from him and did not see the data itself, I cannot vouch for its authenticity  However, he is a bit of a football fanatic, so let’s assume he made an accurate statement. He said:

“This year in the NFL, 66 attempts to score by throwing were made. Only one failed…the one by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. However, successful attempts to run the ball for a touch down had only a 60% success rate.”

He went on to say that sometimes we (as fans) make judgments without knowing all the data. Coach Pete knew the data and the odds, so went with it. And, anyone who is data-driven may have made the same call on 2nd down before unleashing what he really wanted to do.

What’s the lesson? I could say something profound about data and instinct, but I won’t. I will say that it’s a game. I think that, at the expense of our pride, we were all reminded this week that it’s just a game. I think it’s good to remember that a bajillion dollars were spent on this game. (What could Cascadia have done with just one million of that bajillion?) I think it is good to remember that some of the ads tried to focus on families. (Why does our nation need to be reminded to focus on families? That’s a good social psychology question.) I think it’s good to remember how this is as much a media spectacle (think Marshawn Lynch) as it is a display of physical ability (think Marshawn Lynch).

Lots of lessons this week, fueled by a data-driven judgment that did not result in our favor.

As we embark on a very tough budget season (probably the toughest in my five years), as we make decisions about office spaces and hiring, as we reformulate the Foundation, as we go through our April Accreditation visit, and as we develop a response to our needs in pluralism and cultural competency…we will be data-driven. However, lessons from this week will mean that our institutional knowledge and instinct will also have to play a role.  I’ll use the coming Friday Letters to help articulate these decisions and seek your input.

Thanks for your support during the next few, very important, and tough months ahead.

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