Peter Drucker said that things that cannot be measured cannot be improved. And, as usual, he was right.
But to measure you need to (1) select what you should be measuring (the metric) (2) track data over time, and (3) assess the measurements. That three step process is at the heart of modern efficiency building and Fred Wilson is right to advocate for more applications of it.
This blog explores how to think more effectively. That is at the heart of strategy. I say “explore” because we do not have all the answers yet about how this can be optimized. We know some things, but we do not know yet how to take full advantage of the capacity of the human mind.
One way we get better is to think about how we think. To deconstruct how the brain delivers to us the ideas that drive us forward in life. This is called “meta thinking”. And it can be applied in a group or institution as well as on an individual level.
Here is the thing. This only works if you are measuring something in the thought process. That means selecting metrics that you track over time and analyze.
I have been there. I know what it feels like. And I know that when you are depressed — not just a bit sad or melancholy but sunk in the muck — it seems like nothing can help. You get mired down.
I have an idea that can help.
Step one — Stop trying to cure your depression. Stop trying to feel good. That doesn’t work. In order to get out of the muck, you need another approach.
Step two – Instead of trying to solve the puzzle of why you feel so lousy, just commit to getting moving. Not fast moving. But just a little slow moving. Get out of bed. Wash the dishes. Go back to bed, but just for 15 minutes. And so on. You will feel lousy while you are moving, but at least you are in motion. Not just stuck in the muck. Congratulate yourself for taking this step.
Need help? Read Cskiszentmihalyi’s Flow.
Step three – commit to tracking the things that you do. After you do something, ask yourself, how could I have done that better? The next chance you get, try to do it better. Track if it works.
The thing is that depression gets out of control when the self starts attacking the self. This happens in the brain. In my case, it started from a sense of being overwhelmed by responsibilities. I started accusing myself of being a failure.
Trying to feel better doesn’t stop the attack. But when you move, you create new neural paths in the brain. Very small neural paths. Very vulnerable to being forgotten or attacked. But if you nurture these new neural paths, you re-wire the brain. Slowly. One step at a time. Gradually, the brain wiring that produced the attack loses its predominance over other neural pathways. The depression doesn’t disappear. But its effects are lessened.
This worked for me. Go for it.
The word “knowledge” means something different than it used to. It used to mean understanding of information. That information might relate to theory or practice. So I might understand the theory of general relativity or how to make coffee. The change occurred when we started to think more carefully about the process of understanding.
What doe sit mean to understand something? There are at least two aspects to understanding. One is retention. I have to be able to retrieve information about the subject in order to claim that I understand it. The second is application. Memorizing data so that I can regurgitate does not allow me to use it.
If we think of understanding this way — composed of retention and application, we have the elements of a learning model. I take in data, I ask what did I take in (to test if I can retain it), I use it, and I ask how could I use it better, then I test if I have made an improvement. In this sense, learning is a cycle that takes us up up to higher levels until we conclude that we no longer need to go further. We focus on other learning priorities.
This can be modified to manage learning from doing. All we need to do is to define the task, do it, ask how I could do it better, test performance the next go round. and measure progress. The elements are
- agenda (deciding what to do)
- setting metrics
If you apply the above rigorously, you develop a passion for life long learning.
A brief follow up — check this article out that discusses the difference between reception of information and testing that reception.