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The "Holy S***!" Number

Sometimes a number or stat is so shocking, so profound, that it causes your jaw to drop and exclaim the words above, minus the asterisks.
  • We're in front of whiteboards 4 hours a day, but only use them for 4 minutes.
  • 87 percent of the poverty stricken are elderly women.
  • The average coffee drinker spends the equivalent of 11 days a year on coffee breaks.
Most numbers used in business are mind-numbers. But if we can capture one of these HS! numbers in our work, they can be used to inspire creativity and purpose, says William Taylor in his fine HBR.org post, What Surprising Number Will Change Your Business.

In doing marketing work for Sharpie, the maker of colorful marking pens, DraftFCB discovered that only 13% of communication is handwritten, so a theme developed around the importance of giving users a tool that breaks through the clutter.

"Business isn't just a battle of products and services," Taylor writes. "It's a battle of ideas about priorities, opportunities, values, and value. Ultimately, those competing ideas get reduced to competing numbers. So, if you can arrive at numbers that matter, you've got a better chance at winning the battle of ideas."
DraftFCB's idea, relayed through Taylor, is a terrific way for you and your group to toss off the blinders and take a fresh look at opportunities. Look at his post for more specifics on surprising numbers and how to find them.

Have you used an HS! number in your work?