As I flew to Texas over the weekend I read an article in Wired magazine about one of the problems with measurement. Of course we all know that measurement is a good thing. Why else would we say “If something doesn’t get measured it doesn’t get done?” But should we measure everything? Does something have to be measured to be done?
Sure measurement can provide a way to understand something and subsequently control or improve it. Measurement can provide a method of promoting competition. There are however times where people do things for the pleasure of doing. Researcher Jordan Etkin conducted experiments on coloring, walking and reading. She discovered “Measurement led participants to color more shapes, walk more steps, and read more pages. At the same time, however, it led people to enjoy coloring, walking and reading less.”
Tracking redefined fun as work thus diminishing the intrinsic motivation of the activities. Researcher Etkin said “measurement may sometimes actually undermine sustainable behavior change.” This is the opposite of what the original intent of the measurement.
Before you go jumping on the measurement bandwagon be sure to understand the behavior you are measuring and determine the intent you have in measuring it.