How Many Indicators Do We Need?
 
 
 
"Trying to run a complex society on a single indicator like the Gross National Product is literally like trying to fly a 747 with only one gauge on the instrument panel..."
Hazel Henderson, Paradigms of Progress
 


 
Talking Points
 
 
 
  • We are part of a very complex system
     
  • Complex systems need complex measures
     
  • Composite indicators don't provide enough information to make decisions


 
Narrative
 
 
 
Hazel Henderson said that "Trying to run a complex society on a single indicator like the Gross National Product is literally like trying to fly a 747 with only one gauge on the instrument panel..." Think of how many gauges there are in the cockpit of a airplane. What if there was just one gauge that said "good plane or bad plane?" An airplane is a very complex machine, but not nearly as complex as a society.

Imagine if you went for your annual checkup and the only thing the doctor looked at was your blood pressure! Your body is also a very complex system and you expect that your doctor will look at a number of different indicators of your health.

Yet we somehow believe that there is one number like the GNP that tells us how the country is doing. How many people feel better when you hear that the Consumer Price Index went down? In fact, a composite indicator like the GNP does not really give us enough information to make decisions. What would you do differently if the GNP went down instead of up?

We need more than one gauge to fly a plane. We need more than one number to measure community progress toward sustainability.
 
 
Top of the page Talking points Narrative Training home page
 
Previous Outline Next
 
Copyright © 1998 Maureen Hart. All rights reserved.