Wednesday, March 3, 2021

(im)Measurable

We humans are fond of measurement.  It seems to give us a sense of control, of understanding, of certainty.   

Below is a picture of the folding rule my paternal grandfather (who passed before I was born) used in his trade as a carpenter.


To be sure, Austin Coulter used that rule to design and craft buildings, cabinets, and furniture that was at once structurally sound, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. 

However, very few things are as reliably static and dependably consistent as a 2x4 cut to 82.5" in length (actually, even those vary wildly).  And, the more complex the issue we wish to measure - mental health, body weight, wind speed, IQ, love - the less dependable our measuring devices become. 

Complexity of contexts added to relentless variability makes the act of measurement, on its best day, tenuous. 

Albert Einstein is oft quoted, "Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted." 

Margaret Wheatley, one of my favorite authors, asserts that "Every act of measurement loses more information than it gains, closing the box irretrievably and forever on other potentials."

We are wise to try to take account - to measure - things in order to track change and make improvements.  

We are wiser still to understand that those measurements, in almost all instances, are nothing more than snapshots of the present state (which has already changed).

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