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Thought of the Day: “Measure what is important; don’t make important what you can measure.”

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Measure what is important; don’t make important what you can measure. – Robert McNamara

I saw this quote today on The Economist Espresso app.  Sometimes The Economist gets quotes slightly wrong, or will use quotes that haven’t been fully verified…  And I couldn’t track this one down to a source that I am fully confident that it is right…  But, there is at least one book that says that this is what Robert McNamara said to his Air Force Chiefs when he discovered that they were using the number of buildings destroyed by bombs as a critical success factor.

While the Vietnam War clearly had problems (although it is hard to say what would have happened if the Vietnam war hadn’t occurred), I think that Robert McNamara seems to get a lot of blame, and maybe he should.  But he was continually learning in his life, and we would be wise to learn from what he wrote in In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam

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Written by Jacob Walker

June 9th, 2016 at 11:59 am

Posted in Quotes from Others

2 Responses to 'Thought of the Day: “Measure what is important; don’t make important what you can measure.”'

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  1. Sounds to me like a loaded question depending on someone’s political view or perspective or depending on the way someone believes in the news and media. Depending on where you live you’re indoctrinated by someone’s opinion disguised as fact.Reasked the same question has Hillary as getting the Democratic nomination because of failure of Education system much as our political system. For me I have not studied or have the knowledge to answer this question yet. But everything I see now is so one-sided I puke.

    Ben

    10 Jun 16 at 10:57 pm

  2. McNamara’s statement is an uninteresting platitude. He is simply playing Captian Obvious. Everybody already knows that you need to measure what is important. The concept is so self-evident that it hardly needs mention.

    The more fundamental question is how do you identify what is important, and the answer, though simple, is one that is often ignored, especially in politics. The answer is to use the scientific method, meaning to first derive a credible theory that has the potential to explain what has been observed, and then to gather empirical evidence to prove or disprove the theory. Certainly, theories can never be proven, or so says conventional wisdom, but so many theories have such a hard time being disproven that at some point they become fact more-or-less.

    The sun has always risen from the East, but maybe tomorrow it will rise from the West, so do we call this a fact or only a theory? I’d call it fact for all practical purposes, even though there are dimwits who refuse to let go and will wait for tomorrow’s morning to see if the sun rises from the West, and when it fails to rise from the West, they will wait yet another day, because to them nothing can be proven as being absolute, and only racists, bigots, miscreats, and Donald Trump believe in absolutes. As a society, our critical thinking skills have been seriously compromised and replaced by inaccurate political correctness, and if we do not change, then as a people we are doomed.

    So, what McNamara should have said is “Measure what is important, and avoid the demon of political correctness at all costs, if you want your results to be highly predictive and accurate.”

    God is my Witness

    15 Jun 16 at 4:32 am

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