One of the first things taught in introductory statistics textbooks is that correlation is not causation. It is also one of the first things forgotten. - T. Sowell

Correlations are often mistaken for causation because your primary patterns looks to see where one variable dictates another variable. It's hard to fight this pattern when you've been raised in a validation driven culture.

Childhood Patterns are Faulty

A common example of this is found in the education system and the way families raise their kids to relate to education.

If you do your homework and study, you will get good grades, and

if you get good grades, your parents value and love you more, and

if you get good grades, you will get into a better university, and

if you get into a good university, you will get a better job, and

if you get a good job, you will be successful, and

if you are successful, you will be valued and liked more by your community, and...

This kind of thing can go on forever, until one day you wake up and realize that all the "if/and" statements floating around in your brain are actually falsely planted algorithms where one variable does not actually directly cause another variable.

Many of them can be broken down and taken out of a causation formula, creating freedom for each variable to exist without being forced to be associated with another variable in an unhealthy pattern.

Break up the patterns and set the variables free

For example, imagine a system where you could do your homework with freedom. Maybe one day you would write an astonishing book report and the next day you would write a book report that was not your best work. Maybe there is no grading system, or if there is, your grades were not tied to being good/bad.

Imagine the freedom that would be born to create from allowing the variables to correlate with each other in positive and negative fluctuations without forcing them into a causation relationship in order to try and force a continuous positive correlation.

Making business decisions based on assumptions of causation when there is actually only correlation

Similarly, companies spend money on PR and advertising. When management makes decisions based on an assumption of causation to sales when the variables are actually only correlated, they begin to make mistakes and fall into a pattern that can be ultimately detrimental to the company, the brand and the budget.

Any business decision made on an assumption of causation where one does not exist, can be a detrimental risk to the company.

If PR/advertising is considered only as a correlation with sales, decisions can be made knowing that these two correlated items may correlate positive and negatively in fluctuation. Then the focus shifts to execution details, such as budgeting appropriately, spending within the company's means and sending out marketing messages that are aligned with the brand's culture. When you don't look at it as causation, you will immediately have the freedom to make decisions and create from a more authentic place.

When you don't have direct causation, sales metrics need you

So if this is true, and all variables are more likely in correlation than in causation to each other, then how do you make decisions that will increase sales?

You use a 'third thing.' Here, 'third thing' is in quotes because it's a saying for outside of the box thinking using your internal powers. You can your internal powers however you wish - intuition, clairvoyance, senses, hunch, feelings, impulse, savvy, magic, creativity.

When you hold space for two variables to exist in correlation to each other, without forcing one to be a result of another and leave room for your internal power to stew, a 'third thing' is born - a new idea, strategy, tactic.

The space between correlation and causation is where the magic happens

So long as it is in your budget and aligned with your brand's belief systems, you should try out all the 'third things' that come to you and see what the results will be.

Now, if one of your 'third things' works out, it does not mean that you can then place it into a causation formula. Again, you have to hold this new variable and the metric that you're trying to influence and allow a new 'third thing' to be born.

Creativity exists in the space between correlation and causation. A successful business requires your inner artist to show up everyday in that space.