Lost in indicators

A carpenters' ruler with centimetre divisions
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How much time you spend every week just to rethink about targets in your life? If I put this in a form of survey, then numbers will come out. However, I’m not speaking about how to read the numbers generated by surveys. You all can easily learn how to do that. I’m suggesting to rethink the deeper question lies within that question: Is our targets really represent what we need to achieve?

When I was about to post this, I attended an international seminar around internationalization and branding strategy for universities. In one of the panel session, a panelist present his research on how international ratings are made by rating agencies or associations. He showed how definition and calculation of factors contributing to the final rating score can define public perception. In an example he gave, a small alteration on the definition and rating calculation resulted in ultimately different result to a university. Perhaps you now will say: “What is so new with that? Of course if you change the equation, the result will be different!”

Yes, that is absolutely right! But how often we spend time to examine how ratings, calculations and other measurements or metrics in our life were made? I argue, more often we believe the result without questioning how that result was generated. Look at IQ, ratings and popular indexes. Most people believe those popular indicators, but do they now how they were calculated? How would you know that they are relevant and suffice to indicates your circumstances? How many decisions and judgment we made  based on such indicators we rarely think about?

All kind of metrics or measurements are indicators. What do indicators do? Well, they indicate! They represent a certain quality or quantity in operational figures, mostly in form of numbers. Thus, there are chances that certain indicators that looks appealing and convincing for us may represent something that actually irrelevant to us.

Business target is a good example for it. In banking, numbers of saving or lending can’t easily be taken as productivity indicators. In business, a luxurious office building may not mean the business is credible and doing well. Number of loans a business or person has represents credibility, but also indicates future liabilities. Hence, understanding which indicator we should consider to measure ourselves are eminent.

In personal context, indicators such as big house, multiple cars or various antiques are commonly used as indicators of wellness (…or to be precise….wealthy!). But facts are showing that having all those do not necessarily makes people feel well. Sometimes, small house with enough things bring more happiness than having too much. In that respect, I think there are a lot of people attached to irrelevant indicators of happiness. In educational system, we have so many achievement indexes and scores. Do they always relevant and accurately representing the learning quality and competence we are seeking? In economic, does consumption rates solely describing the actual economic pulse?

It is easy to be lost in our own indicators. Indicators are means in figuring what we want. They can be inaccurate in methodological perspective, and the can be irrelevant in substantial perspective. I’m not saying all kinds of indicators are wrong. I’m just inviting all of us to be critical on indicators we have establish in measuring what we want.

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9 thoughts on “Lost in indicators

  1. Yes, maybe I bore you with my comments :), but I agree with you.

    What we must know is, that indicators is not neutral, truly objective, or universal. It ladens with perspective which always embed in certain context or, as the discussion today, hegemony. Most people just don’t know, or don’t want to know, this, and they naively believe everything the so called “expert” say. I don’t mean that nothing is true come from their mouth. But we have to aware of their indicators, and the perspective, hegemony, ideology, or paradigm behind their way of thinking, or choice of words.

    1. Hahahaha……not at all, my friend! Nourishing discussion is never a boring thing!

      Yes, indicators always represent the operating frameworks behind those indicators. Fortunately, they are not unquestionable. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize this. Many people following indicators without knowing whether the operating hegemony behind them are relevant on not.

  2. Target, by its nature were always influenced by our EGO (psychoanalyst said). People always make a target to be (relatively) positive state in their life, for example to be success, to be rich, to be wealth in their life. They didn’t aware that the target just represent their EGO, not their goal in their life. Just imagine that the truly target in our life is DEAD. And all of us have already slowly attained that goal. Your writing was insightful and hope people can rethink their “target in their life” and I just make an additional opinion. Hmm…why people never try to re-set their “target” with this statement “I will enjoy my life until the DEAD came to me”.
    EGO also represent an essential aspect of our life, that is SELF. As we all know that our SELF can’t be measured by any tools. Indicator just can make a blur picture of someone. And our next step is to make it sharp-clear and knowing them better than before. So, how to get a clear picture about people is to interact with them by a set of time and emphatically understanding.

    1. Yes, my dear brother! This blog missed your comments hahaha….and as usual, you nail it right on the head!

      Yes, indicators is first and foremost a measure of ego. Statements such as “I want to be rich” or “This business will be the top of the rank” are more as an ego expression than an elaborate and comprehensive commitment of quality. Often times, it is more about showing off instead of really optimizing the process. That is exactly what enjoying life is all about 😉

      Yes, indicators only lead us to blur capture of reality, because they are only indicators. Seeing indicators are not seeing the real thing. Well, that’s why the title of this post is “Lost in indicators” hehehehe……..Direct interaction is the best way to find out and to get a sense what the real thing is, and that will also tells us whether those indicators are relevant, or on the opposite, misleading 😉

      Therefore, thinking and interpreting is not enough; feeling, sensing, and intuitive interaction are the leads to the real thing. That’s how crazy people in history define the course of history 🙂

      1. In this context, I think phenomenology way of thinking is the best way to understand what really happens inside of ‘people’. Phenomenology moves with two basic assumptions. First, reality, in this context people, open itself to us as interpreter. Truth cannot be searched of find. It opens itself to us. All we need is to observe carefully. Second, we need to bracket all our judgment and assumption about it. Husserl called it transcendental reduction which lead us to eidos, namely the true meaning of the world, or people. The only indicators operate here is the bracketing method, namely how far can we bracket our own assumption and judgment, and then come to the understanding concerning the true meaning of something?

  3. Thinking about target, I’m sure that everyone have their own target that must be achieved. But once again, we need to manage our target achievement based on their priority. Usually, I use PDCA method.

    Everything must be planned at least 2 backup plans to prevent failure. when I want to execute my plan, I choose to execute the most reliable plan at the right time. After that, I can evaluate the result and fix them as needed.

    This is one of target management I have, it’s simple, but believe it or not, it’s powerful.

    1. Lost in indicators means that you have failures on the plan. that’s why you need backup plans….. hehehehe… have a nice day, Bro….

      1. Hahaha….yes, Glenn. I agree that losing in our own indicators itself is a proof that we have bad planning process. That also includes how we were unable to run the PDCA in our plan too 🙂

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