Little data (not big data) – the power of lists

On the home page of Inc., a US magazine for small business, there are links to 10 articles with one thing in common.

They all reference a list to support your entrepreneurial effort.

Even allowing for the odd bit of repetition, it’s an amazing tally. There are things to do: “3 Ways to Start Every Day Better” or “5 Tips to Keep Your Brand Relevant”.

There are things NOT to do as in “10 Dumb Sales Tactics to Avoid”. There are life style hints: “9 Slightly Crazy Things That Might Make You Wildly Productive”.

There are lists that are short: “3 Signs That You Are Stressed Out” and ones that are long: “15 Simple Truths About Selling

Of course lists are useful; we all (should) use them. But the list of lists on Inc. is astonishing. What’s even more surprising is that none of the lists captures 7 things.

Miller’s Law (not me) says that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2.

So anyone following the guidelines in “Cold-Calling Tricks: 16 Ways to Start a Conversation” is likely to find themselves lost somewhere between number 7 “ ….has acquired a new major customer” and number 8 “ has lost a major customer”.

Even the most lengthy, analytical pieces are not immune. There’s a great article on job creation (which although US centric is one that we all should read) which concludes with … a LIST. In this case of 5 things those local organisations can do to stimulate the local economy.

But at the end of the day, do we really believe that the complexities of life and business can be captured in a list? Where to go for insight on this? What’s the opposite of a list? Perhaps a really long novel like Marcel Proust’s “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu” (In Search of Lost Time).

But then, help is at hand because Wikipedia reminds me that this is a work of seven volumes which Penguin freshly translated in 1995 with seven translators from three countries.

Are you still with me? If not, I recommend “5 Tips to Improve Your Concentration”.

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