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These Extreme Use Cases of Excel Spreadsheets Just Prove Why They’ll Survive

January 28, 2016 Mitchell Buchanan  
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When someone is really absorbed in studying an Excel spreadsheet, you could almost mistake them for being hypnotized. For a professional hypnotist like Paul McKenna, however, Excel is captivating for reasons that have little to do with financial spreadsheets, sales or marketing.

The 52-year old raised eyebrows in a recent interview with The Guardian newspaper where he confessed that he took a highly unusual route to deciding who would make an ideal choice of life companion:

I’ve dated a lot of beautiful women. A friend pointed out I didn’t actually like them, and advised me to make an Excel spreadsheet to find out who I really loved. It came down to Kate [Davey, his long-time PA]. We’d worked together for many years; thankfully she felt the same way and now we’re engaged. I feel I’ve learned more with her in the last three years than the rest of my life.

Using Excel he was able to really get at the core of what McKenna was looking for—and now, he has that omnipresent tool to thank for his happily ever after.

The Rule (Not the Exception)

Of course, you could reduce McKenna’s use of spreadsheets as an extreme or even bizarre approach to decision-making. But is it? Writing in The Telegraph, Radhika Sanghani notes that there have been plenty of others who have used Excel to organize and hone in on major life choices. She includes herself as a spreadsheet addict of sorts over the years.

“Job offers were contemplated via lists of pros and cons, while one very extensive system saw me work out what I really wanted to do with my future by awarding my skills and interests points – and then adding them all up,” she said. “I’ve written down seemingly-impossible life goals, and then broken them into achievable chunks – some of which I have gone on to do, and some of which have ended up deleted, or simply been transferred into the following year’s agenda.”

To someone experienced in finance, this is not that far removed from what a lot of companies do in terms of forecasting and revising what they see coming down the road. There are similar use cases in an ever-increasing array of functions across the enterprise.

Though Sanghani admits spreadsheets won’t appeal to everyone thinking about, say, marriage, they appeal to an innately human need for getting organized, laying out the variables in a simple manner and making changes as required. This is worth keeping in mind the next time someone predicts Excel spreadsheets are a poor choice of tool, or something that needs to be replaced.

Because as long as humans need a versatile and efficient way to organize and evaluate data, Excel will reign.

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