Normal-ish I: Tend Your Trends

Just what is “normal” anyway?

This week, we’ll take a closer look at “normal” from two angles that make researchers crazy. If you’ve ever presented results and heard “But is that normal?”, this is for you.

    • Part I: Every day, in every way, I’m getting better….?
    • Part II: Develop the big picture — and get to the point… or points?


Trends matter.

Where you are right now is important, but knowing where you’ve been provides critical context that allows meaningful analysis.


A personal example:

At a recent physical, my temperature was 97.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

But isn’t 98.6 normal? Yikes!

Good to know: My temperature is normally low (That’s how I keep my cool!). Without my records in front of them, my medical team might have been alarmed. Luckily, full trends were available for their review. So, instead of being rushed off to the hospital, I went about my day.

Trends matter!


A survey story:

One of the most common questions we get is what to expect as a “normal” survey response rate. Usually, no matter how high the response rate, those receiving reports want to know why the rate wasn’t higher.

One of our clients recently closed a survey that had about a 35% response rate. But is that good? Bad? Ugly?

Important to know: In past years, they’d never had a response rate higher than 6%. Therefore, 35% was a pretty nice jump!

Of course, this new result raises their expectations for the next survey, but we’re all excited to see the trend improve!


Okay, one more:

So, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. Woo woo! [Sorry, Pats fans.]

Why was it such a big deal? Other than simply winning the game [pretty good by itself, of course], it was the first time the Eagles had ever claimed the honor. As one article I read put it, it was their first Super Bowl win since 1967 [No, they didn't win in 1967 -- That's simply when the Super Bowl started!].

In other words, it was normal for themĀ not to win — to be the underdogs. So, the thrill of victory was even sweeter… [And we won't even get into the Chicago Cubs' curse-ending World Series victory in 2016!]

To flip the same game: Winning the Super Bowl was starting to seem normal for the New England Patriots. And then they lost. So it goes! The agony of defeat even more bitter…


So: Check your trends before you judge anything based on a single data point. Plus, check the next installment of this mini-series to be sure you’re getting the full picture.


Want to redefine normal with your next survey? Join our Boost Response Rates webinar to chart your course!