Question 55 of 365: What is the unit of measurement for an idea?

Question 55 of 365: What is the unit of measurement for an idea?

We measure  and rate everything.

We measure how much things weigh, how many calories we consume, what rating a movie should have based upon violence, how good a meal was, how long our batteries will last, and on and on. We even measure our measurements, like how often we take a poll or how correct our prediction of the weather may be. The only thing that I can figure out that we don’t have good way to measure is ideas.

We don’t know when an idea starts or when it ends. We don’t know where they come from or where they go. We have almost no way of telling with an objective rating system whether an idea is good or bad. Essentially, we have no unit of measure for an idea.

But, I would like to. I would like to know the value of an idea, at least in relative terms. I would like to know when a new idea is being formulated so that I can grab onto it and help to create it. I would like to be able to say that a certain document, or video, or audio recording has a definite number of ideas and then be able to enumerate them so that I can see their value.

I understand that this process may be taking some of the art out of idea making, but I believe that if we had a better way to measure an idea against another one, we could actually come up with better ideas on the whole. I believe that if we had a mechanism to break a piece of content up into idea chunks, we could advance those ideas and build greater things off of them without letting the superfluous ideas weigh down the ones with real potential.

For example: If we were able to separate out every idea within the Health Care bills that are proposed to congress and weigh each one carefully, we would have a mechanism for separating out the very good ideas from the very bad ones. Obviously, what is a very good idea to one person might be a bad idea to another, and yet, when they are all wrapped up into one document, there is simply no way to tell where people stand on any given concept. It is my contention that with enough participation and collaboration on identifying valuable ideas, a lot of the subjectivity will go away. Mostly because the ideas that get the most debate are probably the ones that are the best ideas. The ideas that no one is debating probably can either be passed through or killed on the spot. Those ideas don’t require our focus, the ones that are contentious and will produce a reaction, are the ones that we really need to solve.

And yet, if we have no unit of measurement for ideas, how can we go about this process?

So, here is what I am proposing: What if every video that was produced could be split up into idea chunks and then rating on an individual basis. What if every document that was created could be highlighted according to the same idea chunks and rated on a scale that makes sense. What if every piece of media could be broken down so as to provide data about that object.

If we started there, what would the ratings system be? What is the scale that we could measure an idea against? Perhaps the relevance scale, or the passion scale, or even the understandable scale.

Clearly my answer here is the start of a much bigger conversation, but perhaps it is time to consider just how we are having our conversations about the most important issues of our day. Perhaps we need to be thinking about how we can at least agree on the measuring stick by which all ideas can by rated. Because as it stands right now, we either look at things on the whole which doesn’t allow for much analysis or we are all using different terms which only let’s us claim victory according to those terms.

As I think through this, I wonder about this video. For all of the ideas that he talks about in his Open Letter to Educators, I know that some are good. I know that some are inconsequential. How can I talk about one without talking about the others?How can I give his entire work 5 stars while I know that only a few of the ideas are really going to bring about real change?

If I could break things up or boil them down, I would have a better chance of figuring things out.


  1. one thing i love about what we are capable of and are doing today – remix. nothing bad dies, just keeps morphing. in essence – the measurement of good ideas – what surfaces out of that morphism.
    i just spent hours, tweaking and retweaking a message… to make it simpler, clearer, so that more people could hear it..
    just like your reference to dan's video. what if we focused on getting better at this.
    great ideas, chunking them, picking out the most important ones, regrouping/restating/rethinking them to make them clearer to all ears….i like that.
    i think, esp today, with so many voices, if something really matters and needs to be heard, a better way to remix is vital.

  2. Okay… so let's build it.

    If you could design a system for remix, what would it look like. How would
    you want to express an idea, rate the idea, and remix the idea? What medium
    would work best and what tools would you want to help you?

    I am big believer in creating what it is that we want to use and I think we
    have the capacity to do it. We should not be limited to what we have at our
    disposal today, ever.

  3. i'm not sure Ben. it seems bigger than medium and tools though… i mean part of the eval process would be if the right medium and tools were used for that particular idea.

    maybe a series of questions… that take you through the process of chunking up a piece, evaluating each piece, as well the intent/mode of presenting.

    the more i think about this.. the bigger it seems. i think we've done a dis-service with testing/measuring. i think kids see tests as something that tells them if they're good or bad. then trash it. when a test should be your best ally for making you better. an ongoing, self-iterated tweaking.

    with media and the change web access has allowed for ed… now – not only do we have a need/responsibility to change that image of testing… but to create a whole new way to do it.

    i'm in… let me think on it some more.

  4. So, the reason why I ask is kind of because I'm trying to create it in my
    spare time. I'm trying to create a process and product for iterative answers
    to questions. Here is where my idea is right now:

    Let me know if you would like to play around with helping me to iterate the
    idea itself. I'm glad that we have met for sure. You are a great sounding

  5. holy cow Ben – that is brilliant.
    is that your creation? who is open spokes?
    dang. that's life that matters.
    absolutely love the idea.

    i'd rate it – but i have no means as of yet.

    been listening to bella ever since you tweeted her a few days ago.
    hope she's not influencing my fond perception of open spokes.
    she could.

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