Monday, November 11, 2013

GNB: Blind obsession with numbers

One of the best ways to verify or evaluate is to look at numbers. Instead of relying on theoretical battle, one can perform an experiment and see what the data tells us. In shooting sports, there are several data we can look at, such as using number of rounds, time it took to shoot certain drills.

But there are times when reliance on numbers go beyond the realm of rationality and wander in to obsession.

Here are some common obsessions observed over the years

1. Round count - It is good to know how many were used, but just because an instructor has higher round count doesn't necessarilly mean it is better. An efficient instructor can teach more with less. An incompetent instructor may rely on round count to cover his lack of material.

There was a case where someone asked for refund from a former Navy SEAL instructor just because the first day of class had low round count. Incidently, it was revealed that the person(s) were from a well-ridiculed local training outfit.

No one would doubt usefulness and quality of that instructor, but someone thought it was not up to the standard because of low round count.

2. Student to instructor ratio - Having a low student to instructor ratio is good because instructors can give more individualized attentions. But there is no magical or critical number that should not be crossed in any sense.

For basic shooting class, it can be argued that low student to instructor ratio is important to have a good foundation. However, there are times when students are keyed-in individuals who can absorb without instructor personally guiding them though each steps. In that case a high ratio is not necessarily bad.

Some people seem to be bent on not going over certain ratio - say 15 to 1 - but would having one more person in the class dramatically affect quality of instruction? Haveing 40 to 1 would be bad but 16 to 1 or 20 to 1 may not be necesarily bad depending situations.

3. Time and score - These two are important to improve one's ability, but some people obsess to point of thinking that if they get certain score or time they are better than others. A fraction of a second difference doesn't may not mean much as shooter's performance can be affected by daily condition. Yet some people decided to blindly believe that they are superior because they can perform some drill faster.

While measures of performance is important, there is no need to blindly use it as an absolute rule.

There are reasons why we use numbers. However blind trust in them is not a healthy way to assess everything. Think of the individual picture, what it means in the context, and use it as a measure, not as a judgement.