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Is outcome a good measure of performance?

Published on 06 May 2012
Updated on 05 April 2024

ChatGPT has sparked a debate about the roles of human and machine intelligence in writing and other creative activities. In the Aldo and AI project, we compare texts written by artificial intelligence to those written by Aldo Matteucci, an erudite former diplomat and current Diplo’s resident contrarian.

Can machines compete with humans, represented in this analysis by Aldo? What are the respective strengths of machines and humans in presenting facts and identifying alternative framing, among other things?

Join us in answering these and other questions of critical relevance for the future of human creativity!

Aldo’s text: Is outcome a good measure of performance?

Duncan J. Watts has put a conundrum to me in his book Everything is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer, which I might share with you.

Assume two drivers A and B, both drunk, both running a red light on their way home. Driver A fails to notice a pedestrian as he goes through the red light and kills him. Driver B is equally inattentive, only there is no pedestrian crossing his path, so he gets home ‘safely’. Both have behaved exactly in the same manner – only the outcome is different. Should Driver B be held accountable for the accident?

In a court of law, there would be no discussion whatever. Driver A goes to jail – well-deservedly, many of you may say. In business, we routinely applaud a CEO whose only merit is to have been kissed by fortune. We’ll construct narratives explaining why he is a genius – but is he, or are we rewarding plain luck?


Take VHS and SONY Betamax. VHS bet on the hunch that people would like to see movies at home. SONY bet on the idea that people would want to record TV programmes. What did the public want? I suspect it did not know at the time. Both gadgets were ‘enablers’. The public liked VHS, and early success turned into stampede. Possibly, VHS was first on the market and his ‘enabler’ got the first chance to capture the people’s imagination. Possibly, VHS fulfilled inchoate expectations. Was SONY a poor planner, or just unlucky?

SONY had a second mishap of the same kind. It came out with a minidisc as the same time as Apple launched the iPod. Was Apple’s design predictably a winner? There is no indication than it was. It just happened.

May be there is a lesson to be drawn anyway. In both cases, SONY bet on the fact that people would go for quality. VHS and Apple might have bet on convenience. Convenience often trumps quality. But always? People are happy to pay about twice as much for an Apple PC. ‘It is virus-free’, I’m told. Oh yes, but for the price differential, I would be able to buy triplicate virus protection. The only reason I’d go for Apple is the exterior design – MACs are beautiful – which has nothing to do with performance.

I have no answer to provide here, and I’ll let you mull over these examples. Maybe when the business papers next designate the next star CEO, you’ll stop and ask yourself: is he good or just plain lucky? Or put it another way: maybe outcome is not necessarily a good proxy for performance.

The post was originally published on DeepDip.

AI-generated text: Is outcome a good measure of performance?

Text is generated by OpenAI on 5 March 2023 for the prompt: Is outcome a good measure of performance

This is a question that has been debated in the fields of business, sports, education, and many other disciplines. In general, the outcome is often seen as one of the most important performance indicators because it reflects how well an individual or team has achieved their goals. However, there are also arguments against using outcome as the sole measure of success. For example, some people argue that focusing solely on outcome can lead to a narrow scope of performance and overlook the smaller victories and accomplishments that may have been made along the way.


Another major argument against using outcome as the sole measure of performance is the idea of external factors. While an individual or team may have achieved their desired result, it does not necessarily mean they were the only ones responsible for that success. There may have been external factors such as luck, timing, or resources that greatly influenced the outcome and should be considered when evaluating performance.

Ultimately, it is important to consider both outcome and other factors when assessing performance. Outcome can provide valuable insight into how well a person or team has achieved their goals, but it should not be the only measure taken into account. Factors such as effort, creativity, and collaboration can all play a role in determining success and should be recognised accordingly. By considering all aspects of performance, an individual or team can gain an accurate and complete idea of how well they are performing.

By taking a holistic approach to performance evaluation, organisations and individuals can gain a better understanding of their successes and areas for improvement. Outcome is an important factor in determining success, but it should not be the only one taken into account. It is important to recognise all aspects that contribute to performance in order to gain an accurate measure of success.

In conclusion, outcome is an important measure of performance, but should not be used as the sole indicator of success. Organisations and individuals should consider all aspects that contribute to performance in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of how well they have achieved their goals. By taking a holistic approach to performance evaluation, they can gain valuable insight into their successes and areas for improvement.

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