Monday, April 25, 2011

Thinking in Systems

This quote from Thinking In Systems really struck me:
Our culture, obsessed with numbers, has given us the idea that what we can measure is more important than what we can't measure...
...Human beings have been endowed not only with the ability to count, but also with the ability to assess quality...
If something is ugly, say so. If it is tacky, inappropriate, out of proportion, unsustainable, morally degrading, ecologically impoverishing, or humanly demeaning, don't let it pass. Don't be stopped by the "if you can't define it and measure it, I don't have to pay attention to it" ploy. No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren't designed to produce them, if we don't speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.
Many of our current problems in education, in economics, in civic life, have this cause at their root. We in the web business are lucky that so much of our activity can be measured and mechanically valued, yet much of it cannot. I often recommend the book Small Giants to friends because it shows off a bunch of successful companies that are driven by unquantifiable core values of goodness as well as a profit motive. I'd like to see more of our society's leaders talking about core values; not paying lip service to them but really living them.

1 comment:

James said...

Although dated in some ways, I still think Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control" is one of the better books on emergent systems (short of getting into heavy academic books of course).