How to Measure Anything by Douglas W. Hubbard
  • Title: How to Measure Anything
  • Subtitle: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business
  • Author(s): Douglas W. Hubbard
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
  • Year: 2014-03-17
  • ISBN-10: 1118539273
  • ISBN-13: 9781118539279


How to Measure Anything” by Douglas W. Hubbard is a thought-provoking book that challenges conventional wisdom surrounding measurement and uncertainty. Hubbard argues that much of what is believed to be unmeasurable can in fact be quantified, and he introduces a practical framework for measuring anything, regardless of its complexity. Drawing upon extensive research and real-world examples, the author offers unique insights into the power of measurements and highlights the importance of using evidence-based decision making to drive success in business and beyond.

Throughout the book, Hubbard explores various measurement techniques, such as calibrated estimation, Bayesian statistics, and sampling. He emphasizes the need to overcome common obstacles and misconceptions that hinder effective measurement, including the tendency to rely on subjective opinions rather than data-driven approaches. With clarity and engaging storytelling, Hubbard not only shows readers how to improve their measurement skills but also demonstrates the wide-ranging impact that accurate measurement can have on problem-solving, risk assessment, and decision-making processes. “How to Measure Anything” is a compelling and enlightening read that will inspire readers to question their assumptions and embrace the power of measurement as a critical tool for success.

Book Review

In his highly influential book, “How to Measure Anything,” Douglas W. Hubbard challenges long-held beliefs that certain things are impossible or too difficult to measure. With groundbreaking insights and meticulous research, Hubbard presents a compelling case for the power of measurement in overcoming uncertainty and making better-informed decisions in business and beyond.

Hubbard’s central argument is that almost anything can be measured, regardless of its perceived complexity. He introduces the concept of “measurement inversion,” which suggests that the more uncertain something appears, the more valuable it becomes to measure it systematically. This revelatory approach encourages readers to rethink their assumptions and discard the notion that some things are inherently immeasurable.

One of the book’s strengths lies in its real-world examples that bring the principles to life. For instance, Hubbard explores how the notoriously unpredictable oil industry tackled the challenge of estimating vast oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. By applying calibrated estimation and Bayesian statistics, the industry achieved unprecedented accuracy, quantifying the previously unmeasurable. This case study underscores the transformative potential of measurement and challenges readers to transcend limitations imposed by perceived uncertainty.

Another gripping example showcased in the book is the “value of information” analysis used by NASA during the Apollo program. Hubbard illustrates how gathering additional information, even if costly, can significantly reduce uncertainty. By weighing the potential value against the cost of obtaining more precise measurements, NASA successfully managed risks during the program and achieved groundbreaking accomplishments. These instances demonstrate the real-world applications of Hubbard’s measurement techniques and imbue readers with the confidence to apply them in their own decision-making processes.

Furthermore, Hubbard explores measurement methodologies such as sampling and expert judgment, providing practical guidance on their implementation. He highlights the necessity of capturing uncertainty through probability estimates, advocating for the use of explicit numerical ranges to express confidence. By emphasizing the importance of incorporating a solid measurement model, he empowers readers to make more accurate and data-driven decisions.

Despite the book’s strengths, some readers may find the technical aspects and statistical concepts overwhelming. Hubbard’s methodical approach may require careful reading and additional research to fully grasp the principles and adequately apply them in practice.

In conclusion, “How to Measure Anything” is an illuminating and groundbreaking book that challenges conventional wisdom surrounding measurement and uncertainty. Hubbard’s persuasive arguments, supported by captivating real-life examples, effectively demonstrate the value of embracing measurements as invaluable tools for unlocking growth and success. This book provides not only theoretical insights but also actionable strategies, guiding readers toward making more informed decisions in a world often overwhelmed by uncertainty.

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Key Ideas

How to Measure Anything” by Douglas W. Hubbard is a book that provides a systematic approach to measuring and managing uncertainty in decision-making. Here are the key ideas from the book:

  1. Everything Can Be Measured Hubbard’s central thesis is that virtually everything can be measured, even when it seems immeasurable. He argues that the inability to measure something is often due to a lack of understanding or the use of inappropriate measurement methods.

  2. The Importance of Quantitative Information Quantitative data is more valuable than qualitative data in decision-making because it provides a clearer understanding of the situation and allows for more precise analysis.

  3. The Role of Uncertainty Hubbard emphasizes that uncertainty is a natural part of decision-making. Rather than avoiding it, he advocates for quantifying uncertainty using probability distributions.

  4. The Use of Bayesian Methods The book introduces Bayesian methods as a powerful tool for updating beliefs and making decisions based on new information. Hubbard explains how Bayesian thinking can enhance decision-making.

  5. The Measurement Process Hubbard outlines a structured measurement process, which includes defining what needs to be measured, selecting the measurement method, collecting data, and analyzing the results. He stresses that this process can be applied to a wide range of scenarios.

  6. The Value of Calibration Calibration involves assessing and improving one’s ability to make accurate estimates. Hubbard argues that calibration is essential for reducing measurement errors and biases.

  7. The Wisdom of Crowds Hubbard discusses how combining estimates from multiple individuals can often yield more accurate results than relying on a single expert. This approach leverages the “wisdom of crowds.”

  8. Decision Analysis The book introduces decision analysis techniques, such as expected value and decision trees, to help quantify the potential outcomes of decisions and evaluate their consequences.

  9. The Use of Monte Carlo Simulation Hubbard advocates for using Monte Carlo simulation to model complex scenarios and understand the range of possible outcomes. This technique is especially useful for addressing uncertainty.

  10. The Risk-Management Perspective Hubbard encourages organizations to adopt a risk-management perspective, where they actively assess and manage risks by measuring and monitoring them over time.

  11. The Communication of Results Effectively communicating measurement results is crucial. Hubbard provides guidance on presenting quantitative information to decision-makers in a way that is understandable and actionable.

  12. Continuous Improvement Hubbard emphasizes that measurement is an ongoing process. By continually refining measurement methods and updating data, organizations can make more informed decisions and improve their processes.

  13. Practical Applications Throughout the book, Hubbard illustrates his concepts with real-world examples from various fields, including business, healthcare, and environmental policy.

In essence, “How to Measure Anything” challenges the notion that some things are too uncertain to be measured and provides a framework for quantifying uncertainty and making better decisions. Hubbard’s approach is grounded in practicality and emphasizes the value of measurement in addressing complex problems and reducing decision-related risks.

Target Audience

The book “How to Measure Anything” by Douglas W. Hubbard is targeted at a diverse audience interested in expanding their understanding of measurement and its potential applications. This book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Business Professionals The principles in “How to Measure Anything” can benefit a wide range of business professionals, including managers, strategists, analysts, and decision-makers. Hubbard’s approach challenges traditional thinking and equips readers with practical techniques to measure and reduce uncertainty. By applying the concepts presented in the book, professionals can improve their ability to make evidence-based decisions, enhance risk management practices, and drive business success.

  • Researchers and Analysts For those involved in research, data analysis, and modeling, this book is an invaluable resource. Hubbard provides a framework to capture, analyze, and communicate uncertainty in measurements, allowing researchers to construct more accurate models and draw more meaningful conclusions from their data. By understanding how to effectively measure the seemingly immeasurable, researchers and analysts can refine their methodologies, improve the quality of their findings, and better communicate the uncertainty associated with their results.

  • Students and Scholars “How to Measure Anything” serves as an essential companion for students and scholars interested in measurement, statistics, decision-making, and business analytics. The book’s comprehensive coverage of measurement techniques, supported by real-world examples, lays a solid foundation for understanding the principles of effective measurement and fosters critical thinking. Its insights can be applied across a range of disciplines, including economics, engineering, social sciences, and management.

  • Professionals in Risk Management and Project Management The book offers valuable insights for risk managers, project managers, and anyone involved in decision-making under uncertainty. Hubbard’s methodology provides a systematic approach to quantify risks and assess the impact of uncertainties, enabling professionals to make informed and proactive decisions. The book’s emphasis on measuring uncertainty with probability estimates and cost-benefit analyses provides invaluable guidance for effectively managing risks and optimizing project outcomes.

In conclusion, “How to Measure Anything” is recommended reading for a diverse audience ranging from business professionals and researchers to students and scholars. The book’s practical guidance, combined with captivating examples, equips readers with the tools to overcome measurement challenges, make more informed decisions, and drive success across various domains.