What Quantified Self Did for Six-Pack Abs, 'Quantified Business' Can Do for Your Startup
Whether you're running your own company or you're one of a small crew determined to make your vision a success, it's common to feel as if there just aren't enough hours in the day. Most people see time as a luxury. Yet most entrepreneurs wouldn't think of time as a factor that contributes to their bottom line. I’ve recently embarked on a journey to help leaders be more mindful of perceiving time as a strategic asset.
It might sound like a daunting task at first, but it's actually very accessible. Businesses owners who see the relationship between time spent and outcomes produced understand that time is resource -- just the same as materials and money. These leaders manage their time efficiently because they comprehend its actual value.
The rise in popularity of the Quantified Self fitness movement offers one way to illustrate the principle.
Self on a shelf.
Quantified Self began more than a decade ago as a quasi-monastic discipline reserved for two dedicated groups of people:
- Truly hardcore bodybuilders with the will -- and, yes, the time -- to obsessively catalog every exercise and every morsel of food.
- Individuals with diabetes whose very lives depended on chronicling food intake and exercise for suitable insulin balance.
But then something interesting happened. A widely shared TED talk, a best-selling book and podcasts on Quantified Self helped generate widespread interest in learning more about how the human body operates. That interest created a market for a litany of apps and wearables designed to handle the most laborious part of quantifying oneself: monitoring.
Tracking your body's activity is now so easy, it's become commonplace. There's a good chance most of you are reading this on a smartphone that counts your steps and wirelessly connects to share data with scales and other fitness devices -- functions that weren't even major selling points of the original phenomenon.
What made Quantified Self so pervasive is that it filled a massive void in understanding. Closely tracking exercise, weight, food intake and a host of other metrics can bring to light all the unseen connections and their effects on your health. The simple act of quantifying makes even small progress tangible and rewarding, helping you stay on track to achieve your fitness goals.
Monitor, learn, improve.
Quantified business operates on many of the same principles. It starts with monitoring, but that's only the beginning.
It's not enough to gather the "time spent" data from across an organization. Most people miss the crucial second step: learning how it connects to outcomes. On a personal level, this is the difference between quantifying the time you spend over the course of a week to breaking down the hours and minutes into your specific tasks. You need that level of detail to see emerging patterns hidden within the complete data set. Once that occurs, you can begin to make meaningful adjustments -- just as Quantified Selfers use their data to devise ways to get more fit without spending more time in the gym.
The intelligent (near) future.
Time monitoring is still in the early stages of adoption. But there are great benefits to be realized from this practice. Everyone gets the same 24 hours each day, and that time needs to be optimized. Put another way: A company with 1,000 employees has at its disposal a little more than 2 million hours annually. But few leaders of organizations this size know where those hours are going, and that hinders their ability to make strategic decisions.
Quantifying an organization's time flow can deliver a tangible impact on productivity, performance and profits. It might feel like a futuristic way to think about time, but the latest technological advances make the journey from time management to time intelligence easier than at any point in the past.