John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Numbers Beating Ideas These Days

Posted on April 27, 2012



“Feel like a stranger/A stranger in this land/I feel like a number/I'm not a number/I'm not a number/Dammit I'm a man/I said I'm a man.”


Bob Seger felt like a number when he wrote that song in 1978.  He probably really feels like a number these days.


We are all numbers.  We are part of some big data dump.


The guys who are getting rich are the guys who can best manipulate numbers.


Google is all about numbers.  They were the first to crack the code on a big scale.  They peddle in numbers and data.


Facebook was able to make the numbers personal, but at the end of the day, their huge valuation is based purely on numbers.   They don’t care about your photographs.  They care about the products you “like” and how many friends you have.


Campaigns now are all about numbers.  They are exceedingly data driven.


They are doing their best to pump up the numbers.  And they are quite sophisticated about how look at the numbers.


What neither campaign seems to really get is the power of ideas.


The President’s last good idea was when he decided he could beat Hillary Clinton in the Primary.  The numbers didn’t look very good for him initially.  But somehow, he could see the weakness in Hillary’s arguments and it gave him reason to run hard to the left.


But after that good idea, Obama has been all about numbers.


Mitt Romney is also exceedingly data driven.  For him, it is all about adding up the dollars and the cents.  He is a business guy.  He is not much of an idea guy, to be candid.  But if you want a candidate who can look at the data and find out where we are wasting money, he is your man.


The problem with relying solely on numbers is that numbers aren’t particularly creative.  Numbers have no soul.  Numbers are anti-septic, immutable, cold.


Human beings are not numbers.  Human beings, created by God, have souls.  They have feelings.  They have emotions that sometimes can’t be predicted by numbers.


People are moved more by ideas than by numbers.  Numbers don’t move people.  They don’t tell you how.  They tell you how many.


The Enlightenment was all about ideas.  The Romantic period was all about ideas.  The 1960’s was all about ideas.


What’s the big idea these days?  That numbers rule the world.


That’s not much of an idea.




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