Cannot Measure it, Cannot Improve it

Found a famous quotation, that within Microsoft, people use very often. But this time, saw it on Google’s website:

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. by Lord Kelvin

This is for many times proved to be true, and I believe it is also the foundation principle of the modern science. Fengshui? Or Chinese Medicine? That does not include measurement yet. Don’t have measurement does not necessarily means that they are not effective, but it is maybe one of the key distinguishing characteristic of modern science and others. The other is religion – you just cannot use science to explain religion, just like you cannot use English to exactly explain Chinese.

So, recently, I wrote the following question on the notebook I brought with me: How can we measure happiness?

The conclusion was, no, we cannot measure happiness, especially after I re-read Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. (BTW, fanatic book on what happiness is. It seems to be particularly written to ENFP people like myself).

Since we cannot directly measure happiness, this afternoon I told Wendy that I am going to do something else. I will write down scenarios that I typically feel happy, and then count the number of times that I run into that scenario. By counting that number, I can have a proxy to measure whether I am happier this week than the last week, or not. (Jinshengtan has a famous 33 happy moments. Everyone should have a simliar list)

Even better, if we can develop a common check list about what happiness means for us as a family, we can collectively measure how happy we as a family are.

Sunday Morning Session

My morning started again from a meeting in the cafeteria of Pudong Shangri-la Hotel, followed by a meetup in Starbucks opposite to the Bund with friend from Baidu, Inezha, and Shopex. Then we had a lunch at nearby Italian restaurant with Hengge from blogbus. How long has been the last Sunday morning meetup like this? I think it is at the end of 2004. It seems really good ideas and high quality meetups only happens during bad ecomony times. It always seems to be that ideas comes from, then company and then capital, and then competition, and then, many die, and the process start all over again. I think it is a great idea to have regular (by regular, I mean not more frequent than monthly or even quarterly) Sunday morning meetups.

3 thoughts on “Cannot Measure it, Cannot Improve it

  1. I like your idea of how to measure happiness, Jian Shuo. Probably just having that list in your mind will improve and increase the number of your happy experiences.

  2. Hello, Wang Jian Shuo

    The important thing in measurement is to understand what is being measured. After all, without an understanding of chemistry, it is hard to know that most plants breath out oxygen by day and carbon dioxide by night.

    Happiness isn’t something that can be measured by a questionnaire and a number that falls on a straight line like a ruler. Psychologists look first to describe phenonmena in this way because it is the easy way.

    Happiness is a phase state. It is like the weather seasons. Can you say there is more or less weather or more or less summer or winter? Yet there is summer and winter?

    Understanding happiness in this way takes huge laboratory resources though, and more mathematics training than had by most psychologists. The exception has been the work of Marcial Losada. He used the standard equations used by Lorenz to describe the weather. Three things change in time and change each other causing more change. These dynamic equations can together marke out a healthy space where we swing between the summer and winter of our lives.

    Under certain conditions, the natural movement breaks down and we become all summer or all winter – which is unnatural.

    The healthy state is like a big 3D butterfly and includes positive and negative. We are likely to be in this state when we have 3:1 positive to negative experiences (or more up to a high of 11:1), we are slightly more concerned with the external world than ourselves and we ask slightly more questions than we give answers.

    The practical advice begins then with savoring the good things of life – pay attention, photograph them, celebrate them. When we keep the positive:negative ratio in good state, we have a chance to be in a healthy state when we are sad appropriately and joyful appropriately.

    So let me say thank you for mentioning the measurement of happiness and leaving your comment box open. You gave me the chance to put in to words one of the key issues about happiness and key challenges for psychologists. And the more I practice explaining, the easier it is to teach students.

    I rather like the direct way you ask for the article to be shared!! Might tweet that!

    Have a winning week,


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