Category Archives: Douglas Hubbard

Douglas Hubbard

While it is common for academics to dig up prior research, this practice seems to be vastly underutilized by management. When managers think about measuring productivity, performance, quality, risk, or customer satisfaction, it strikes me as surprisingly rare that the first place they start is looking for existing research on the topic. Even with tools like Google and Google Scholar that make this simpler than ever before, there is a tendency with many managers to start each problem from scratch.

Douglas Hubbard, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business, Hoboken, 2014, 3rd ed., p. 59

Douglas Hubbard

[I]n addition to the mathematical illiteracy of at least some respondents, those of us who measure such things as the value of life and health have to face a misplaced sense of righteous indignation. Some studies have shown that about 25% of people in environmental value surveys refused to answer on the grounds that “the environment has an absolute right to be protected” regardless of cost. The net effect, of course, is that those very individuals who would probably bring up the average WTP for the environment are abstaining and making the valuation smaller than it otherwise would be.

But I wonder if this sense of indignation is really a facade. Those same individuals have a choice right now to forgo any luxury, no matter how minor, to give charitable donations on behalf of protecting the environment. Right now, they could quit their jobs and work full time as volunteers for Greenpeace. And yet they do not. Their behaviors often don’t coincide with their claim of incensed morality at the very idea of the question. Some are equally resistant to the idea of placing a monetary value on a human life, but, again, they don’t give up every luxury to donate to charities related to public health.

Douglas Hubbard, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business, Hoboken, 2012, 2nd ed., p. 210

Douglas Hubbard

James Randi, retired magician and renowned skeptic, set up this foundation for investigating paranormal claims scientifically. (He advised Emily on some issues of experimental protocol.) Randi created the $1 million “Randi Prize” for anyone who can scientifically prove extrasensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance, dowsing, and the like. Randi dislikes labeling his efforts as “debunking” paranormal claims since he just assesses the claim with scientific objectivity. But since hundreds of applicants have been un- able to claim the prize by passing simple scientific tests of their paranormal claims, debunking has been the net effect. Even before Emily’s experiment was published, Randi was also interested in therapeutic touch and was trying to test it. But, unlike Emily, he managed to recruit only one therapist who would agree to an objective test—and that person failed.

After these results were published, therapeutic touch proponents stated a variety of objections to the experimental method, claiming it proved nothing. Some stated that the distance of the energy field was really one to three inches, not the four or five inches Emily used in her experiment. Others stated that the energy field was fluid, not static, and Emily’s unmoving hand was an unfair test (despite the fact that patients usually lie still during their “treatment”). None of this surprises Randi. “People always have excuses afterward,” he says. “But prior to the experiment every one of the therapists were asked if they agreed with the conditions of the experiment. Not only did they agree, but they felt confident they would do well.” Of course, the best refutation of Emily’s results would simply be to set up a controlled, valid experiment that conclusively proves therapeutic touch does work. No such refutation has yet been offered.

Randi has run into retroactive excuses to explain failures to demonstrate paranormal skills so often that he has added another small demonstration to his tests. Prior to taking the test, Randi has subjects sign an affidavit stating that they agreed to the conditions of the test, that they would later offer no objections to the test, and that, in fact, they expected to do well under the stated conditions. At that point Randi hands them a sealed envelope. After the test, when they attempt to reject the outcome as poor experimental design, he asks them to open the envelope. The letter in the envelope simply states “You have agreed that the conditions were optimum and that you would offer no excuses after the test. You have now offered those excuses.”

Douglas Hubbard, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business, Hoboken, 2012, 2nd ed., pp. 15-16