quantitative thinking, critique of

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It seems to me that we rely more and more on quantitaive measurement as a gauge of our success. Income, percentage gained, value-at-risk, earnings before tax, carbon footprint, jobs created, hours worked, mass of produce delivered.

While this is very convenient, and calms our fears of not knowing what’s going on, of darkness, that is, it limits our perception, criples our understanding and deforms our desire for creation and play.

I want to point out that we rely to much on one thing, so much so that it becomes a crutch. “If a man don’t need legs, he needs a wheelchair” – dEus sing in their fantastic title “Worst Case Scenario” from their self-titled debut album. And so it is with us. We live by the number, we increase production, we gain more profit, and then more gain, year after year. And we lose, we lose that, that we do not measure, quality.

We gain food, and loose sustenance and nourishment, we increase the number of items shipped, and reduce their durability and quality, we gain specialist knowledge and loose the big picture.

I don’t mean to say that we should abolish quantitative measurements. Far from it. I love data, I love the scientific method. I desire proof as much as anybody else. But quality is important. And ultimately we increase what we focus on. It becomes an ever bigger part of our lives.

And so we need to focus more on quality, on qualitative thinking and measurement. Circumstantial evidence, soft facts, vision out-of-focus, big pictures. Narratives, stories, even myths.

We need more of that, even if it takes longer to write, longer to read, and more work to put into action, or derive consequences from. We need to refine our language, a language that helps us describe. How did the work feel, was it satisfying? Is our passion in the product? Was the produce nourishing? Did it smell good? What is the texture?

Complexity instead of reductionism. Maybe we do not need to reduce so much. Maybe we can grasp the whole picture, not with our rational minds, but with our guts, with our hearts. Let us develop our feelings, our sensitivity to a fine point, where action becomes intuitive and results flow from a deep connection and understanding of the whole process, the entire context, and not from an obsession with a single number.

Quantitative growth is limited, qualitative growth not. You can always go deeper, get better, become more sensitive, more conscious of the whole process. And thereby grow.

So: onwoard: To more quality! By at least 15% this year!

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