Hans Rosling

I still remember the first Hans Rosling TED talk I watched – “The best stats you’ve ever seen.” It was mindblowing.

Hans Rosling passed away last week. Luckily for us, he’ll still live with us through his talks and incredible work at Gapminder. I haven’t watched nearly as much of his work as I’d like to. While I’m sure I’ll do so in time, I did ask myself – why did his passing away strike such a chord?

I think it is because he is an amazing example of someone who elevated something commonplace, boring even, with intensity and passion. Hans was a statistician who drew insights from data. But, he did so like an artist.

Martin Luther King Jr  once said – “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Hans took this idea to a whole new level. It is amazing how good our presentations can be if we put the same amount of thought to them as Hans did. And, his work will be a reminder that we will live in perennial ignorance if we’re not making the effort to understand the data in front of us. It is the data that enables us to see what is possible and be, in his words, “possibilists.”

It is a reminder we need now more than ever.


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