In my office is a Schlumbergera bridgesii, commonly known as a Christmas cactus. On occasion, its prickly green braches display beautiful red blossoms. Many years ago, when I acquired this excellent plant, it could have fit inside a small cereal bowl. Over time, the plant has grown more significant in size.

As I walk into my office in the morning light, I could swear that the plant has grown overnight. However, without acquiring a ruler and measuring each branch, the impression is purely speculative. The feeling could have been my observation of the plant’s response to the exposure of the amber rays of the morning sun.

In the absence of actively measuring the growth of the plant, I would likely take a sip of coffee, shrug my shoulders, and proceed with my tasks for the day. In other words, my lack of insight into the plant’s quantifiable growth rate resulted in an inactive response to my observation.

The danger in this situation is that my impression of the plant’s growth could be incorrect, and its appearance could have been an indication that there was action required of me to maintain the viability of the plant. Another danger that exists is that I might have acted upon my impression and pruned its branches. In doing so, I may have incurred unnecessary stress to the plant at a moment when it may have needed nourishment.

Granted, I do not measure the growth of my cactus as part of my daily routine; I take care of it based on recommended practices of watering, feeding, and exposure to light. However, these recommended practices were developed by botanists who have leveraged the power of quantifiable measurements to identify beneficial patterns required to maintain a healthy plant.

Metrics and quantifiable measurements offer much more to the observer than a collection of curiosity quenching numbers and formulas. These units of data provide the observer insight into the patterns and effects of activities so that more informed responses can be offered to a given situation mitigating unnecessary risk. This outcome is valid for caring for cactus as well as operating a business.