January 31, 2017

What about seeing measurements as feedback to use for continuous improvement?

In this report, I read that measurements play a key role in the innovation process. To develop new and improved products and processes, we look for, for example, 
  1. improvements in quality or performance. It could be cleaner air. 
  2. reductions in inefficiency / waste. It could be a reduction in the amount of energy a lamp uses to light up a certain space. 
  3. use of new materials or techniques. It could be road materials that help us generate energy when we walk / drive on them.
To get this information, we need appropriate measurement support.

Reading this blog posting, I read that measurements help give us feedback to use for continuous improvement. Just as we all need to give feedback to our colleagues, users, friends, partners and other people around us, so we can help each other improve competencies, we need to get feedback from technologies so we know what is changing, how we are progressing / advancing. In this regard, I come to think of Duolingo using which we can get continuous feedback about how we are learning a certain language. When we listen to the feedback we get and change / adjust how we say / write words, it helps us get closer to mastery of that language.

I also come to think of the #makezurich innovation challenge about how to measure bicycle commuting using low cost sensors. Just as the feedback we need to get from the Duolingo machine in order to improve how we write or speak, we need feedback from a sensor about how many cyclists are driving down a certain street at what times during a day. Using that information, we will know more about how to adjust the size and/or quality of roads, light signals, and other surroundings in order to further improve the mobility experience.

At the #makezurich event on January 27th at Impact Hub Zürich and at a #makezurich lab session at MechartLab the other day, I had some interesting conversations with people working on the #makezurich bicycle commuting challenge, for example about how feedback from sensors / technology is communicated to people. During these conversations, I couldn't resist sharing impressions about a bicycle counter initiative I experienced. The bicycle counter, that counts the number of bikes which pass by, displays changes in numbers instantly. I learned that one advantage of such a bicycle counter is openness / transparency. And this openness will help advance innovation.

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