How to know if you’re having an impact
Measuring the social impact of products and services is a bit like trying to describe the taste of water. It’s essential, ubiquitous, and yet so difficult to pin down in words.
Every entrepreneur, freelancer, or business leader has wrestled with this elusive concept. How do you know if your daily hustle translates into real-world change, especially when your mission is as intangible as, for example, making mental health an everyday conversation?
Here’s the stinger – measuring impact is hard.
It requires more than just a good intention and a calculator.
As a team deeply invested in this pursuit, we’ll let you in on a secret: it’s about perspective as much as it is about metrics.
So, how do you measure the immeasurable?
First, consider the angle. It is vital to align your activities under a mission umbrella. Whether it’s delivering impactful speeches or fostering young talent within a growing business, the alignment is crucial. But, of course, alignment alone isn’t enough.
Second, embrace the fact that growth doesn’t necessarily mean scaling skyscraper-high. Growth can be more nuanced than just economic expansion. It’s about the quality and depth of your impact as much as the breadth.
The real meat lies in the how.
Sophisticated measurement tools are out there. The Kilpatrick model, for instance, offers a framework for evaluating training impact. But these models come with a cautionary tale: don’t get lost in the allure of complexity. Sometimes, the simplest measures can speak volumes.
Some impact leaders, giving a talk on tech for good, for example are happy if their story resonates with just one person in the room. Job done.
What do you think? This is the antithesis of the ‘quantity over quality’ mantra that plagues many impact assessments. Maybe it is about making a meaningful connection, not just filling seats or ticking boxes.
In the corporate world, the balance sheet is obviously king. But you can use that to have a dual focus on financial and social outcomes. Both are vital to sustainability, and neither needs to overshadow the other. It’s about creating a business that nourishes the soul as much as it does the bank account. Have you got an impact balance sheet?
There is wisdom in valuing those who are in front of you, not the empty chairs. Each listener in your network, community, sphere of influence – is an opportunity to make a ripple, and ripple can spread far and wide.
Process measures might track your media appearances or social media followers, but do they truly capture impact? Maybe. Probably not. What’s more telling is the actual change you effect, the awareness you raise, the discussions you elevate.
Consider your guiding stars, whether it’s people, community, consumers, or the planet. How do you affect these spheres? Do your efforts lead to a healthier workforce, more informed consumers, or a lesser environmental footprint? These are tangible signs of impact.
And yes, we operate in a system that often favours the short-term. But challenge yourself to create changes that unfold over years, not weeks. Patience is more than a virtue; it’s a necessity.
Public sector work always demands demonstrable value for money. But the value is not always immediate. True impact can be the sum of gradual improvements over time, the kind that don’t make headlines but make a difference in people’s lives.
Lastly, let’s not forget the personal dimension. You might not get paid for it. You might not win popularity contests. But if you’re true to your mission and principles, and you can look back on real, tangible changes you’ve helped bring about, then rest assured, you’re making an impact.
Impact is not just a buzzword; it’s a continuous quest. It’s about sticking to your guns, rallying your community, and nurturing your environment. The impact is both the journey and the destination, and sometimes, the most significant step you can take is to simply ask yourself, “Am I putting more into the world than I’m taking out?”
In the end, impact is a personal scorecard. It’s about setting your compass by your true north and measuring success by the change you ignite. So whether you’re crafting policy, stirring souls with your story, or simply showing up with integrity, you are having an impact.
Keep asking the hard questions, keep caring about the answers, and the ripples will come. It’s not easy, but then again, the things that matter rarely are.
How does your company define, measure and communicate impact?
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