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People Lie, but Data Does Not

by Mark Nassi, 7/11/18

If there’s one thing that drives me nuts about parenting, it’s lies.

Me: Who left one spoonful of ice cream in the container?

Kids: Wasn’t me

Me: Who was using my tablet? I know I wasn’t playing Fortnite.

Kids: Wasn’t me

Me: Where did you get all those packets of sugar that are now empty and on the floor in your room?

Kids: What sugar?

I feel like I’m constantly saying to them, “Just tell me the truth. It’s far worse to tell me a lie than to tell me you wanted to play video games, so you snuck to the basement.” But this hasn’t made a difference because they continue to lie. Notice that in each of those lies, the kids are withholding information instead of actually maliciously lying. According to Dr. Delaney Ruston, “Research shows [kids lie because] they don’t want to be judged poorly by adults; it’s not that they don’t want to get in trouble (link to article).”

But does the same apply to businesses? At NCS, one of the principles we are always wrestling with is, is it worse to see a bunch of small, innocuous mishandlings of information or is it worse to see an infrequent whopper of an “error?”

The answer: it depends and both.

For example, is a teller taking a quarter out of the register everyday worse than when the teller removes $100? That you can easily measure. Although you and I would probably fire the employee when they take the $100 no questions asked, it takes time to figure out the twenty-five cents.

The more data we look at with regard to specific situations, the more we can tell which one is the bigger issue. Both scenarios have value when evaluating wrong doers, so we tend to look at both and weigh them according to what the user of the data needs. It is one of the arts in what we do.

For my kids, it can be obvious if the lie was material. “Did you break the window?” or “Did you cheat on your test?” would be pretty big things to lie about. The continuous lying about who finished the cookies probably isn’t as material despite it being frustrating (although I wouldn’t suggest getting between me and my cookies).

We recently bought our kids (10 and 12 years old) their first cell phones. Besides the normal wrestling with kids with technology and accelerating the kids growing up, my wife and I struggle with our kids already lying about screen time. To prevent it, I’ve asked for some simple initial ground rules like “checking in” their phones at night. I’ve also installed some parental controls, like a service called Safe Lagoon (safelagoon.com) to monitor their activities. I know they will circumvent these rules. They’ll figure out ways to use these tiny computers in ways I wish they wouldn’t and perform acts with unintended consequences.

I’m arming myself with data. I’m hoping I’ll have enough data collected to determine the materiality of the inevitable lies to come.

About the Author:
Mark Nassi

Mark has a 17-year career spanning across technology, public accounting, and financial services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of California-Davis as well as... more