Believe in Numbers—But Not Too Much

(What You Can Measure, You Might Manage)

Vignette: The Columbia Disaster

Numbers are not everything.

The following is a famous example in which the quantitative approach to decision making led to a faulty decision.

When the Physics Nobel laureate Richard Feynman was investigating the shuttle’s reliability following the Columbia disaster in 1986, he noticed that the probability of a failure was estimated to be 1 in 100,000 by management, but only 1 in 100 by the engineers.29 Instead of accepting the discrepancy of those estimates as a sign of weakness, the management preferred to rely on numbers, numbers that, in hindsight, made no sense. The management’s evaluation was wrong. It gave a false sense ...

Get Business Decision Making, Second Edition, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.