Imperfect measures

Does GDP really give us a good sense of standards of living? Is the English Premier League winning team better football players than those who lost? Is the student who scored higher on a Chemistry test better in Chemistry than the one who scored lower? Does getting into McKinsey means you are better than someone who didn’t get in?

What does a figure, threshold, passing line, timing, grade really say about people, teams, organisations, countries? They give rather general, objective facts: eg. A team scored more goals; or a student answered more questions correctly. But they don’t easily translate to ‘this is a better team’ or that ‘this is a smarter student’. Maybe, but there is a myriad of reasons for that translation to fail. And we acknowledge these measures to be imperfect.

So why do we still act as if those figures, lines, scores really mean those things? How do we find better ways to measure things and get people to stop relying on imperfect measures that does no better than random guessing? How do we teach people to handle things that are in-between; how should they approach those imperfect but still valid measures? What is the story they should be telling themselves?

Lots of questions, more to ponder than to answer. The trouble is, are we even asking ourselves those questions? Are we thinking about them? Are we finding that these answers would be key to unlock a better future?