Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Do You Measure Up?

Sudden star Nate Silver 'made statistics sexy again' after successful election forecasts.

But Nate isn’t the only current pop cultural phenomenon in which statistics and numbers play a key role. How about the TV series "Numb3rs" or the biographic sports drama "Moneyball"?

Or how about how those of us who are sports junkies willingly endure, and even seek out, endless numbers and statistics about every play in Major League Baseball or the National Football League.

We even relish the unending numbers that describe our very being; height, weight, inseam, sleeve, waist, chest, glove size, shoe size, hat size, vision, hearing, blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, or heart rate. I could go on and on.

When it comes to performance, however, our love affair with all things numbers starts to cool down. People are OK with verbal or written feedback on work performance, but not so much when it is in a numeric form.

There are a variety of assessments that attempt to quantify cognitive performance. We have the Intelligence Quotient, the Supports Intensity Scale, to name a couple. I get the sense many in our field are pretty uncomfortable with this.

Why is this the case? I already mentioned the movie “Moneyball.” For those of you who are unaware, the movie is the true story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Numbers in "Moneyball" trumped gut feelings regarding the performance of Major League Baseball players, and the results and benefits were shared by the entire baseball team, and eventually the league.

Now, I am not making a case for IQ scores or the SIS as the metrics measurements we should be using, however, I am making a case that we need to translate our performance into numbers. Our future will require us to quantify performance in a way that we are able to support people in the most effective way possible – not by gut feeling. We have yet to develop the tools necessary, but it is inevitable that we need to develop, and will develop the tools, to take us where we need to go.

Then again, what do I know?

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