I was asked about the recent “record number or CEOs quitting” conspiracy theory, so I’m doing a post on it. Primarily because a little research shows how this is cherry picking data and a complete abuse of statistical data.
I hope all of you will pay close attention to this post. The analysis I give here can be used to punch through the complete BS that’s thrown around so much of the internet nowadays. As tough as I was on the media yesterday, they look like paragons of virtue and honesty compared to social media, Reddit and the fringe “media”.
OK so the latest conspiracy theory is that CEOs have stepped down in record numbers the last year, and the pace has been increasing since the start of the year. This is ABSOLUTE PROOF to the delusional that the CEOs were all part of a vast conspiracy of the evil rich to kill off the great unwashed.
THE BASIC FIGURES:
The only figures I saw thrown around a few articles were the base numbers for last year and this year. We hit 1480 resignations last year, and had 219 just in January this year. Apparently no stats yet beyond January. Both are RECORD HIGHS!!!
THE ACTUAL BAR GRAPH SHOWING THE TREND:
Here’s the information that’s NOT being said. The case quickly falls apart if it was shared as part of the story:
As you can see from the tweet, the info wasn’t tracked at all till 2002. While the last couple of years DO show a spike, they’re not THAT far out of line with previous years. 2005 through 2007 in particular came fairly close.
NUMBERS IN A VACUUM:
The biggest abuse of statistics is that people will quote a statistic completely on it’s own; ‘in a vacuum”. That’s ALMOST never accurate, and is usually accompanied by the infamous “everybody knows” as a substitute for facts.
“Everybody knows” is actually just an effort to get people to avoid critical thinking, and an almost guaranteed sign that what you’re hearing or reading is complete bullshit.
For statistics to have any meaning, they have to be looked at in terms of what may be impacting the numbers. Let’s look at the possible influences that were NOT discussed relating to this issue in any article I saw:
1 Has the number of corporations grown in equal proportion? If the percentage has stayed the same even though the number has gone up, the only thing that’s changed is the number of players in the game (so to speak). IF there’s an even higher proportion of corporations, then the percentage of CEOs “quitting” would have actually gone down.
2 Have these CEOs truly “retired” or have they just jumped ship or shifted to an advisory role? Job hopping has become both trendy and big business (pardon the pun) for corporate executives, just like it has for professional athletes. Cash in a severance package, jump to another company for a better package and even higher pay. Rinse, wash repeat in a few years. It’s all about the game here for some executives.
Until you have meaningful statistics about who has both truly retired AND also run for the hills, there’s absolutely NO rational way to establish a link between CEOs resigning and some sort of global conspiracy regarding the pandemic.
3 What are the ages of the CEOs retiring? There’s likely a huge difference in motivation for a 70 year old CEO retiring and a 30 year old one doing so.
4 How many of those retirements were due to the company being eaten up by a larger one? It’s a legitimate factor in the numbers, especially with companies like Disney, Google and Amazon gobbling up more and more companies out there.
5 How many CEOs retired due to real health issues?
6 How many CEOs retired due to personal or corporate scandals?
7 How many had specific clauses in their contracts that made it a benefit for them to retire recently. 2020 is a nice round number to use as a deadline for receiving stock bonuses, etc…
8 How many simply had theircontract expire this year?
Are you readers getting the idea here? 🙂 It’s only when you can show both a pattern of increase AND a proven pattern of causes after accounting for all potential influences that you’re close to the truth.
Let’s shoot down one specific example used as proof in the stories; Bill Gates. He’s got more money than God so he HAS to be part of some now proven conspiracy!!
Reality: The man is 64 years old. He’s been running Microsoft for almost 40 years. He stepped down as Chairman years ago already, signaling he was transitioning towards retirement. He’s also heavily involved with the charity he started and been saying for years he wants more free time with his family.
I’d say there’s also an unspoken likelihood that given his age, etc… he’s possibly feeling a little overwhelmed by all the latest advances in technology and realizes the company might be better off in younger, more innovative hands as well.
Vast evil conspiracy or just an aging man wanting to finally take it easier?
CONSPIRACY THEORIES IN GENERAL:
So, as you see, what we have here is a conspiracy that looks good at first glance, but quickly falls apart under any real analysis. The same is true of most conspiracies really. My opinion is that even in most legitimate cases, the “conspiracy” isn’t some cabal that sets in motion dastardly deeds. They simply make sure to exploit and capitalize on the situations once they occur. Remember my Rahm Emanuel quote a few days ago?
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel
Once again, “could not do before” really means couldn’t get away with before. He’s recently reprised that saying also as he makes the rounds on TV trying to exploit the coronavirus situation to make himself relevant again.
I could further point out that a good way to potentially hide a legitimate conspiracy is to bury information about it under layers of complete crap that’s supposedly connected to the conspiracy. …At least until the whole diversion tactic reaches a critical mass. I think we’re at that point too. People see conspiracy theories in their breakfast anymore.
So there you have it. As my college statistics teacher pointed out; “Numbers don’t lie; people do”. Sometimes it’s out of ignorance and lack of analytical skills. Sometimes their personal biases and need to blame others blinds them. Sometimes people just try to blatantly manipulate others with partial truths.
Knowledge and critical thinking skills are the only defense against it all. We live in a world of unprecedented access to information. Unfortunately the vast majority of it is tainted or outright false. Without a basic understanding of the kind of analysis I put forth here, you’re doomed to be led around by the nose by people manipulating you for their own gain.