Living Life by Numbers

Dateline: June 28, 2013

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

Our world is becoming more numbers driven.  We’ve seen the trend at work, with the emphasis on analytics and the mining of data from our data warehouses.  But a recent blog by author and senior researcher at Babson Executive Education, H. James Wilson, articulates how data has begun to drive our personal lives in new ways. In an earlier HBR article, he defined the relatively new field of auto-analytics as “the practice of voluntarily collecting and analyzing data about oneself in order to improve.”

Managing our life by the numbers is, apparently, addicting.

As Nike learned from studying millions of users, the magic number of times a runner needs to see her data before becoming a more “science-based” runner is just five. Once a person crosses that threshold they are “massively more likely” to keep running by metrics than by feel alone.

And the trend is increasing, now that we all carry smart phones, tablets, and special devices for many of the measurable items in our lives.

Research suggests that 69% of Americans participate in some self-tracking behavior just in areas related to health and wellness. Within this group of self-trackers there’s a fundamental behavioral switch going on from analog tracking to digital. Old-school methods requiring you to painstakingly detail your life with pen and paper are being replaced by tech that can collect data automatically or passively, and even interpret the data for you. Already 21% of people who self-track use smartphone apps or gadgets that make self-tracking behavior more efficient and the data more dependable.

This blog post has some additional very interesting statistics about auto-analytics.  The author concludes,

Frederick Taylor’s famous Time and Motion studies aimed to make factory work more scientific. Imagine if Taylor had the tools we’ll have now. It looks like we’re moving toward a New Taylorism, only this time, the worker takes control of measuring effectiveness. It could create increased autonomy through self-knowledge, and revolutionize, again, management, and the way they live and work.

What auto-analytics do you use in your life?  What would aid your organization?  What systems need to be in place to provide this feedback to your team?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a great weekend!

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