I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review by Michael Schrage about Developing your Quantified Self. The point of the article was that interviewing people is changing. Instead of asking seemingly irrelevant questions like:
How many golf balls would fit in a school bus?
The article suggests you should be ready to share what you have done, what you have learned and how you have improved. And, be able to back it up with metrics.
In essence … you should be able to share Your Quantified Self
While I can understand the idea and I generally agree I have a slightly different approach. Which I address below with three questions I ask myself. Basically, I don’t think everything should be measured. I also don’t think people should spend much, if any, time on their weaknesses.
One of the points in the HBR article suggested asking:
“How do you measure how you’re improving your biggest weakness?”
… I would answer the “How do you measure how you’re improving your biggest weakness?” question with “I don’t directly. I focus on my strengths and hire for weaknesses.” If a company wants me to spend time on weaknesses they aren’t a place I’d want to work. As Albert Einstein said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Pro Tip: Just in case you do get one of those seemingly irrelevant questions. Keep in mind they person asking the question isn’t looking for the exact answer. They want to know how you think. How you evaluate problems. Don’t blurt out an answer or tell them it’s stupid. Talk through the problem and how you would solve it.
My Three Questions for a Quantified Self
I ask myself three things when I am evaluating my quantified self. I offer these to you. If you like them, use them. If you want to tweak them for your model of thinking, please do. If you have other questions you ask yourself to quantify your world please add them in the comments.
My three questions are very simple, by design.
Did any thing happen?
Did anything happen faster?
Was anything prevented?
What Do They Mean?
Very simply they are the primary reasons why someone might hire you.
The first question is a a fairly generic question you can ask yourself about any project you have completed or are currently engaged. Put simply … Did Something Happen? Ask yourself this question. In order to properly answer this question you should have a sense of the beginning state and the end state. What happened between the beginning and end was likely a lot of work as may have included some blood, sweat and tears.
To evaluate your quantified self … Only the Beginning and End State Matter. That’s not to say what happened between the two states weren’t important. However, that’s the backstory if you are asked about it. Hold onto the details and if needed share them.
Take the Time Upfront to Set Conditions: This is where you need to take the time upfront to understand the beginning state and to define what the end state should be. Then gain consensus on both to make sure your measurements and your analysis of Your Quantified Self are accurate.
The second question is about being a catalyst. Were you able to make something happen faster? Perhaps the thing you are measuring was going to happen anyway, but with your efforts were you able to make it go faster or achieve more. This is an important metric for analyzing your Quantified Self. Everyone brings new energy, contacts, and perspective to a project. Your efforts may make a difference in the outcome. Measure that! Quantify it.
The third question is more of being an inhibitor. Were you able to put the brakes on something? Were you able to shut something down that was not providing the value expected? This can be a hard thing to do and sometimes it’s easier to bring a new person in, with a new vision and perhaps different relationships.New eyes, new vision and a new perspective can allow projects to be evaluated and when needed terminated. While this may be harsh the reality is that not every project is successful.
Quantified to Qualified
The idea that you should be able to quantify your contributions is a good one. Your ability to quantify your results can help prove that you are qualified for a role or task. There are still personality and fitness for duty points to be considered, but seeking Your Quantified Self is worth your time.
While I don’t think there is much value spending time on your weaknesses I do agree that measuring what you have done and being able to share it when needed is a good indicator of what you can bring to a job, a company, and and industry.
“What’s past is prologue” ~ William Shakespeare
This quote from Shakespeare was in The Tempest and it’s as true today as it was when he wrote it. What you have done is likely an indicator of what you will do. As harsh as that may be to digest and process it’s quite often true.
So, How do you measure your efforts? What do you measure? What don’t you measure? Your Quantified Self wants to know.