May Contain Lies

How stories, statistics and studies exploit our biases — and what we can do about it

“Powerful and punchy” — Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written” — Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece” — Katy Milkman

“Fascinating” — Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote” — Vaclav Smil

Amazon #1 category bestseller (UK and US)

Amazon Top 100 across all categories (UK)

Financial Times Business Books of the Month (April 2024)

“Powerful and punchy”

Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written”

Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece”

Katy Milkman

“Fascinating”

Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote”

Vaclav Smil

Order your copy here

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US

    The word ‘lie’ typically means an outright falsehood. But ‘lie’ is simply the opposite of ‘truth’. Someone can lie by hiding contradictory information, not gathering it in the first place, or drawing invalid conclusions from valid data. Even if books, studies, or talks are filled with facts, they should all carry the same health warning: They may contain lies.

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    Inside the Ivory Tower

    Inside the Ivory Tower

    In May Contain Lies, I highlight the value of academic research. While it's far from perfect, it can be more reliable than practitioner studies for a number of reasons:
    1. Its goal is scientific inquiry, rather than advocacy of a pre-existing position or releasing findings to improve a company's image.
    2. It's conducted by ...
    Does only 2% of VC funding go to female founders?

    Does only 2% of VC funding go to female founders?

    A widely quoted statistic is that only 2% of VC funding goes to female founders. For example, this Forbes article highlights that "only 2% of all VC funding goes to women-led startups" and asks "Why is only 2% of VC funding going ...
    An unhealthy obsession with organisational health

    An unhealthy obsession with organisational health

    Two leading asset management firms drew my attention to the McKinsey Organizational Health Index as a potential tool to evaluate a company. A book, "Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change", written by two McKinsey partners, claimed that companies with high scores on this Index trounced their unhealthy peers along a range ...
    Discernment matters even more

    Discernment matters even more

    In 2015, 2018, and 2020, McKinsey released a trio of papers claiming that diversity has a positive causal impact on firm performance, titled "Diversity Matters", "Delivering Through Diversity", and "Diversity Wins". These studies make basic errors, as highlighted by Green and Hand ...
    Want a more innovative conclusion? Innovate the conclusion

    Want a more innovative conclusion? Innovate the conclusion

    'Want a more innovative company? Hire more women'. The title hooked me immediately. I’m an avid follower of the @TEDTalks Twitter page, but I don’t have time to watch every talk. But when I saw one with the title ‘Want a more innovative company? Hire more women’, I wanted to hit play instantly.
    You couldn’t even make it up

    You couldn’t even make it up

    Confirmation bias leads us to make up excuses to dismiss facts we don’t like. If our favourite politician gets elected and the economy tanks, we’d argue it would have done worse had she not been in charge. Or we’d protest that we need to wait another year before we can truly evaluate her performance.
    Missing the big picture

    Missing the big picture

    In 2016, the finance company MSCI released a study claiming that CEO pay bears no link to company performance. It couldn’t have been better timed. That year, soaring CEO pay was controversial on both sides of the Atlantic. The UK government was so concerned that it launched an official inquiry into it (and other aspects of how companies are run).
    The danger of first impressions

    The danger of first impressions

    ‘Go with your gut’, ‘Follow your first impression’, ‘Obey your hunches’. We frequently hear this advice, and Malcolm Gladwell wrote a successful book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, on the value of heeding your instincts.
    Why better brains beget bigger biases

    Why better brains beget bigger biases

    A wealth of evidence demonstrates how people suffer from confirmation bias, but most of it is on ordinary people. Surely intelligence is a cure? Smarter cookies might better appreciate the logic in a counterargument, and notice defects in data even if supports their viewpoint.