Making the immeasurable measurable

Urs Merkel
May 25, 2024

We're all familiar with the phrase "Uh, I have a funny gut feeling about this". Our intuition is having its say. We already have an inner tendency. Be it our opinion or even a decision. We can't quite grasp it yet because we haven't rationalized it. However, our tendency is already tangible if we just listen or feel what our gut is telling us.

Next to reason, intuition is considered our strongest guide, even though it is not tangible for us. It is a feeling and feelings are intangible for many of us, perhaps tangible but even less measurable. We feel it when our pulse quickens or calms down again. Anyone who has ever talked about climbing stairs knows how easily we can get out of breath and our pulse rate increases. We feel the stronger pulse beat. How our breathing becomes shallower. We may even start to sweat. When we get angry, we also feel ourselves getting warm. Or when we are nervous or afraid that our hands will get sweaty because we have to speak in front of a lot of people. The tension in the room when a conflict is unresolved and the air becomes thick to cut. All of these are symptoms with which we associate a feeling.

We can measure all these symptoms. The moisture of the skin, the oxygen content in the blood or the volume of the lungs. We also have situations that we associate with certain feelings. The interesting thing is that similar situations can suddenly bring us back to this feeling and we then tend to behave as we did in these situations.

We can learn to perceive and understand these feelings and even behave differently with them at a very high level.

The measurability of the immeasurable

It can help us if these states are more tangible for us. For example, if we don't feel self-efficacious and can locate this perception. We use the term human skills or soft facts to describe characteristics of self-efficacy, inner motives or resilience. These characteristics can be localized on a scale. However, this is only possible if we make our perception or our inclinations measurable by measuring data points. What was considered immeasurable is now possible through people interaction mining. In a simple expansion stage through questionnaires in self-perception and perception of others. Using questions that are considered a psychological or sociological measuring instrument with good reliability, validity and objectivity. Or through so-called silent listening, in which data points of interpersonal communication or interaction are recorded - for example, calendar appointments, which I can use to record who spends how much time with whom in appointments. It is also possible to record the time spent on tasks using project management tools.

What exactly can be deduced from this is varied - meaningful or of no value at all in terms of content. It depends heavily on the context and the interpretation of it. Attention must also be paid to how valid the data collected is. In what context was it collected and does the data have a so-called bias due to the data collection?

Development potential

Making human skills measurable also highlights an extremely valuable treasure for each of us. We can recognize our own development potential. In combination with exercises, this helps us to further develop our human skills, aka soft facts, in the work context. As a result, we are now finally leveraging the third development potential at work that was not there before - interpersonal skills. Because work is made up of technical, methodological and human skills. And the latter have always been neglected in development to date. This has changed and we can now effectively and comprehensibly develop skills such as self-efficacy, resilience, emotional intelligence, empathy and many more.

In another article, we deal with the topic of people interaction mining and possible behavioral changes for personal development.

Urs Merkel
September 1, 2023