How Metrics and Measurements Limit Our True Potential

If you look at the society we live in, our success is based largely on metrics and measurements. This process  starts as early as kindergarten for most of us. A while back we looked at the idea that when we live in a world based on rules, limitation gets more and more built into that world throughout our lives.  Metrics and measurements eventually destroy our potential as we lose site of what we’re trying to learn and focus on achieving a metric.

  • Grades: The very first measure of success for most of us is the first report card we receive. If we get what people consider good grades, then we’re labeled “smart” and that idea starts to become reinforced at an early age. But if we don’t get good grades, then we  start to tell ourselves a different story. Essentially we’re not that smart and not on the path to success. Repeat the story long enough and eventually it becomes our identity and what you see when you look into the future.  A question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we have destroyed the potential of those people who are not “book smart”.  Are we causing humanity to miss out on the remarkable potential that lies within each one of us.
  • Sports: We’re taught to keep score from a very early age. For the kid who might not be good at school, playing a sport might provide another outlet to reinforce self confidence. If you suck at sports like I did, it reinforces the story of limited athletic ability and many more limiting beliefs about a person’s physical abilities. In fact the number of points you score will reinforce your beliefs in your athletic abilities.  Again, it’s a system that has a flaw since the only assessment of a person’s abilities is based on measurements and metrics.  Maybe we should stop keeping score for a while and see what happens.
  • Salary: By the time we get out of college we start to believe certain things like “I’ll never be a great author, artist, musician, etc, etc.” So now we measure our success in one of the only ways we know how: money. For most people, once they get their first job they are focused on their first raise and their first promotion. I’m going to go out on a limb and say most people very rarely think about why they actually chose the jobs they have. Most of their choices have very little do with their values.
  • Your rank on the ladder: Personally I think that that the rank on the ladder is one of those myths that corporate america uses to fuel its own existence.  But for some reason we put quite a bit of stock in this measure of success.  After all, who doesn’t want to be the CEO of some billion dollar company. We’ve been taught our whole lives that this is the holy grail of success.
  • Your Blog: On some level this is what inspired me to write this. I’m not as successful as many people who started after I did.  But I also know that comparing myself to them doesn’t cause me to grow. Checking my traffic doesn’t cause the blog to grow. What causes a blog to grow is the innate creativity which we all possess.

Measurements and metrics actually get in the way of our ability to reach our potential. While I don’t think there is an education system on the planet that will be brave enough to do this, I’d like to see one that does away with measurements and metrics as an experiment.  Something tells me the results would be interesting. The education system in its current form won’t meet the needs for our future as Ken Robinson alludes to in his speech on creativity at TED. My challenge to educators is this. Do away with metrics and measurements and embrace the innate ability of your students. Let them bring the art into everything they do.

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