The Measurement Problem

Publication Date: October 16, 2013

Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, draws on her own experience in Russia following the fall of the Berlin Wall, where she started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow. The Measurement Problem spans the years during the collapse of the Soviet Union, offering an insider perspective from an expat who experienced it firsthand.  

Moscow: September 1990
Catching her first glimpse of Mother Russia was like losing her virginity.  Breathless with expectation, Emma looked down from the airplane window, eager for a life-changing revelation.  Instead she saw partially planted fields and ramshackle sheds strewn randomly beneath her, as if scattered by a slovenly God. That was it?

Emma moves to Moscow in 1990 to write a paper on what she thinks of as “The Measurement Problem”, that capitalism is great at rewarding what can be measured, but terrible at rewarding what is most valuable. She ends up living out the thesis of her paper in her love life when she falls in love with two men, a Russian entrepreneur and an American humanitarian aid worker.

As the Soviet Union collapses and her love life starts to unravel, Emma learns about alienation. Karl Marx got it wrong, and so did Adam Smith. It’s not an economic problem, it’s a relationship problem.