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The Myths of Measuring Humans

The Myths of Measuring Humans

"I think therefore I am" is a famous quote by what some see as the founder of modern Western Philosophy – René Descartes. Throughout recent western history, there are virtually no fairy tales that do not contain contradictions between culture and nature, female and male or west and east. Instead, the groups are opposed to one another and hierarchies are formed. What would the world look like if we would free it from such categorisations? I think, therefore I am a part of this labyrinth called life. 

And please, don't get us wrong. There is nothing wrong with measuring itself. There are a plethora of exciting and fantastic things out there to measure that is important. We need to find the signal in the noise and measure what matters. 

But before we make the unseen seen, let's go through what we believe is the 7 Myths of Measuring Humans.

the 7 Myths of Measuring Humans

1st Myth - Measuring outcomes increases productivity

If you are focusing on the outcome, you can never measure accurately. The English economist Charles Gothard states: "If a measure becomes a target, it's not a measure anymore". There is nothing wrong with targets, but they are no measurements. 

2nd Myth - We can reliably evaluate others

The human brain is throughout the evolution programmed to spot danger and negativity. This binary thinking might have been of use while still were hunting in the bushes, but certainly is not today. We, humans, are terrible in evaluating others. It's either good or bad, and we struggle with the grey zones or better said the one with more than one colour.

To help ourselves out, we use social comparison and external benchmarking. And both of those methods are hurting people.

3rd Myth - Feedback is helpful

All the studies are showing that when I give you feedback, I am talking to 60% about myself. 

So what is then the best way to give good feedback? The answer is closer than you think. It's all about your own experience of people and the environment that counts. Think how about how you feel with different people in certain situations. 

4th Myth - Humans are static

Every second, a billion transactions are taking place at a molecular level in our body without us even noticing. We are in constant process and transformation, and yet we set a goal 12 months ahead and run at it like an idiot. We are human, and it doesn't work like that. 

5th Myth - Data accurate reflects our reality

Depending on where we come from, we all bear a particular cultural bias. If you come from England, you will never get 70%, not even in one million. But in other societies, 100% might be given away daily, and sometimes we talk about 200 %.

When we use numbers to rate people, it hardly is a reflection of reality.

6th Myth - Measuring humans 1, 2, 4 times a year unleashes their potential

To brush your teeth only 3 times a year, but then really thoroughly, with dental floss, mouth water and sticks will not help. You have to do it continuously. And we know that one of the essential things with humans is continuous feedback - the speed of feedback need to continue and get faster!

7th Myth - Intangibles are not measurable

There is sometimes this belief that you can't measure things that you can't see. But if you look around you, you see experts measuring loyalty, happiness and different intangibles. 

Among the things that we measure at Kokoro is except wellbeing and the quality of interaction, the culture, organisational mood and workplace satisfaction.

To sum it up

Until the 1920ies mathematics believed that there is a perfect solution for everything. Then the Austrian mathematic Kurt Gödel created a shock in the community with his new principles of mathematics, that said: "If a system is constant, it's incomplete". 

Our performance systems have finally reached the "Kurt Gödel Moment". We can't create a fair system with numbers. Instead, we have to ask ourselves the questions: How can we start measuring, so we start delighting our employees?


Imran Rehman is the founder of Kokoro. He has coached everything teams and organisations - everything from Navy Seals, hospitals to Deutsche Bank. Today he is building real-time learning analytics for groups and organisations. Andrej Barla has a background from online marketing and is the community lead at Kokoro - learn, excel and move forward through your emotionality.



Fotoquelle: Sabine Ballata | Kokoro