As a budding economist, I like to think that there’s a way to measure everything. I’ve yet to find something that can’t be measured somehow, but I find many things that are very difficult to measure. We are often hindered in measuring by our lack of resources. The largest resource we are lacking, by my reckoning, is time.
Time never slows down, neither does it speed up. These two properties of time result in major constraints when trying to measure impact and effectiveness. Because we are interested in creating widespread impact, we want to quickly implement ideas into the world, where every day that we delay equates to the end of many opportunities. On the other hand, seeing the long-term results of these ideas when implemented requires waiting, sometimes for decades. Without knowing the long-term results, we may be reluctant to move forward, but if we don’t move forward, we will never find the results. What a paradox! Furthermore, we may realize that we wanted to measure something down the road, but, having failed to collect the proper data, we find the opportunity has passed.
My thoughts on solutions to these problems? Only these:
1) Act. Try to make an impact in the world and hope you can prove it, wrong or right, eventually.
2) Collect ALL the data you can with the resources you have. You will collect much that proves useless, but extra data is often not regretted.
3) Measure. Always try to understand and explain what you’re doing. Measuring only becomes a hindrance when you don’t pay attention to your findings. If you find what you’ve done is an utter waste, then you’ve have discovered something to guide your actions, and that is very valuable.
Overall, I believe that the bulk of our resources should be spent in trying to make an impact. At times, this will require slowing down our implementation of ideas in order to measure their effectiveness, and knowing those times will be very difficult. In the end, the biggest thing you could do to hinder your progress is not measure anything.