A Piece on the Prize

It is a good week to be Angus Deaton.

On Monday, the Princeton University professor was named the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in economic sciences. Prior to winning the Nobel this week, Dr. Deaton was perhaps best known for his work on consumption theory, welfare, and inequality. Indeed his honor centered on “his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare.”

Beyond the focus areas of his work, I was drawn to some of the approaches within his work — notably the focus on the individual to arrive at meaningful, broader implications. His work carrying out household surveys for instance has helped upend the notion that it’s always appropriate to establish policy based on aggregate data and just as importantly, he provides an alternative to doing so.

As communicators we share this desire to focus on the individual for the prospect of where it can lead us. We know that an individual’s story is so often textured with the nuances, subtleties, and realities of life that can be lost in the aggregate. We know the power that an in-depth interview, with even one individual, can hold in uncovering perceptions and motivations. We know that speaking publically as though to one person can be the best way to connect with and win over large groups of people.

It’s Deaton’s work in his own field, with his chosen tools of his trade, which can serve as a timely reminder for us all. It’s a reminder to not become frustrated; to not abandon analysis of what and who is right before us, each and every day. Instead, as Deaton believes, within the hard work, we must embrace those people and things that so often provide the details that enable and inform our best work — work that’s real, far-reaching, and has lasting impact.

Sign up here to receive the intersection straight to your mailbox, every Friday morning.