We Don't Trust What We Can't Count, Even If It's the Most Important Thing
That thing which we call culture, which is sort of the zeitgeist, the feel of an atmosphere is really hard to count and measure, and very hard to put into numbers. And yet it tends to be the most important thing.
Brooks’s books include Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (2000), in which Brooks combined the words bohemian and bourgeois to coin the term ‘Bobo’ in order to describe today’s corporate upper class, the descendants of the yuppies. Brooks argues this marriage between bohemian and bourgeois represents a fusion of the liberal idealism of the 1960s with the self-interest of the 1980s.
Four years later Brooks published On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense (2004). The thesis of this book connects the material drives of the American middle class with its focus on the future. Brooks’s new book is called The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, published in March 2011. The Social Animal deals primarily with what drive individuals' behavior and decision making and how we form our emotions and character.
One of the problems we have when we make policy and create business strategy is that a lot of the social skills we are aware of in our regular lives go out the door because we want to rely on things that we can count and measure. And so in the policy world, the things that can be counted and modeled matter a lot. Everything else gets dropped away.
For example, in education, we pay a lot of attention to grades and SAT scores and that’s tremendously important, but what really explains why some people succeed and why other don’t is the individual relationship between the teacher and the student. It’s really tough to count the quality of relationships and yet that’s the most important thing.
And so those things, because we can’t count them, we somehow don’t trust them. I think that’s true in corporations and anywhere else. It’s the quality of the relationship, it’s the quality of the space that’s between people more than the individual traits that people bring to the office. And yet that thing which we call culture, which is sort of the zeitgeist, the feel of an atmosphere is really hard to count and measure, and very hard to put into numbers. And yet it tends to be the most important thing.
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