An average report?

Source: The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, McKinsey Global Institute

A report from the McKinsey Global Institute uses the word "average" 53 times.  

So what?

An average is a summary measure that reporters, researchers and others can use to capture some aspect of the data.

Averages are useful, because they offer a snapshot - but they can also be deceiving, because they can hide variation in the data.

In this chart from the report, we can see that the data ranges from 37% in one industry, to 98% in another. The "average" is 66% - and that's the figure that McKinsey appears to use on the web page that offers an overview of the report's findings.

But as a smart consumer of data, you should ask yourself:

  • What would happen to the average if you excluded professional services - the only industry over 80%?
  • Are they talking about the "mean," which is what many people think of when you say "average"?
  • Is this a weighted average, or is every industry treated equally?

We'll have a whole chapter on averages, aggregated data and other summary statistics in our book. Until then, keep an eye on this blog (and on our @everydata Twitter feed) for more insights.