CHAPTER 2 An Intuitive Measurement Habit: Eratosthenes, Enrico, and Emily

Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.

—Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Setting out to become a master of measuring anything seems pretty ambitious, and a journey like that needs some motivational examples. What we need are some “measurement mentors”—individuals who saw measurement solutions intuitively and often solved difficult problems with surprisingly simple methods. Fortunately, we have many people—at the same time inspired and inspirational—to show us what such a skill would look like. It’s revealing, however, to find out that so many of the best examples seem to be from outside of business. In fact, this book will borrow heavily from outside of business to reveal measurement methods that can be applied to business.

Here are just a few people who, while they weren’t working on measurement within business, can teach business people quite a lot about what an intuitive feel for quantitative investigation should look like.

  • In ancient Greece, a man estimated the circumference of Earth by looking at the lengths of shadows in different cities at noon and by applying some simple geometry.
  • A Nobel Prize–winning physicist taught his students how to estimate values initially unknown to them like the number of piano tuners in Chicago.
  • A nine-year-old ...

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