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You get an ‘Ology’, you’re a scientist!

Who can forget the brilliant BT ‘Ology’ ad from 1988?

Maureen Lipman is a Grandma using the telephone to applaud the exam efforts of a despondent grandson, Anthony. He’s failed everything of course apart from Pottery (“people will always need plates”) and Sociology, the Ology of the title.

She reminds me of my own Granny, in whose eyes I could do no wrong. Watch it again here.

That’s Ological Captain

Measureology is a made up word of course, a little tongue-in-cheek even. I wanted it to sound sciency because we blend systems thinking with statistics and visual data.

An Ology is ‘a subject of study, a branch of knowledge’ so no absurd claims there. The ‘Measure’ part refers to the study of methods of uncertainty-reduction. Metrology – the ‘real’ science of measurement – is a broad church so we’re not treading on any toes.

The spelling causes confusion too. Why Measureology and not Measurology? (So Measure is visible in the logo and to avoid Urology!).

I’m still not sure whether referring to myself as a ‘Measureologist’ is a good idea. Yes, I study uncertainty-reduction for my clients but maybe my Granny would say that was a bit “fancy pants” in her Totley accent.

Ology Ology Everywhere

I’m a bit concerned though, I’m starting to see Ologies all over the place:


Now I love coffee so I don’t mind this one.


Formerly CSL. They must have agonised about whether it should be Sofaology. If the sofas are created by scientists and not furniture designers that would explain the slide-out thingies.


I like Stephanie Davies’ work. A former comedian bringing the power of laughter to the workplace. Who wouldn’t want more of that?


A tricky one this. A term coined by Michael Barber, former head of Tony Blair’s Delivery Unit who went on to McKinsey & Pearson. Many aspects of his top-down command and control thinking about education – performance targets in particular – have been heavily criticised, most vocally by John Seddon.

The idea that imposing top-down targets on people produces better system performance is at best misguided and potentially harmful. The purpose of the system becomes target-achievement – to get a reward or avoid punishment – instead of fulfilling a customer need. The conflicts in NHS targets are potent example, made visible by queues of ambulances outside A&E. Enron and Tesco executives in fear of personal consequences. Desperate salespeople and managers the world over. The list goes on.

Watch the ad to the end and you’ll hear Grandma making disparaging closing remarks about teachers too. This shortcut to individual judgement and blame – an human attribution error – is still prevalent today.

Deliverology is a dirty word, toxic even, to some in the public sector. So claiming an ‘Ology’ can still give rise to the kind of Bad Science which gets mis-reported in the press. I’m hopeful that any apparent similarity will create a cue to talk about what’s wrong with top-down target-setting and show why there are better ways.