Jay Cross is exactly right. "It never ceases to amaze me how many people assess the cost and benefit of projects with accounting approaches developed in Venice in the five hundred years ago." And, of course, such metrics are useless. "Organizations that make decisions based solely on things that are sufficiently tangible to be counted might as well consult a Ouija board to set their goals."
In my keynote, I spoke about the importance of intangibles for a couple of reasons.
1) Intangibles often come in the form of stories or anecdotes about the technology value and if used along with numbers can help make the case.
2.)The discussion around trying to quantify it - can lead to productive conversation about why the technology is important to mission. If the conversations focuses on the results, not the measurement unit.
I tried to make the point by raising the question, "Can you quantify the intangible?" Of course you can't. But intangibles are important to note and often inform decisions.
I'm trying to shift myself off the forward movement and into reflection mode around the America's Challenge. I caught up with Jen Lemen's post "To Cambodia With Love" I met Jen at Blogher last summer in a session about Global Women Bloghers. One of the panelist had asked the room on my behalf for t-shirts for my suitcase campaign and Jen gave me a her blogher schwag!
Jen's shares how she was engaged in the whole drama of the competition:
True confession: With less than twenty-four hours left to go, I am practically obsessed with America’s Giving Challenge, the charity fundraiser sponsored by Parade Magazine. I’m not sure why exactly. Whatever the reason, it probably also explains why I cry during any movie involving a race, an underdog and/or a girl with a dream. The cheesier the better.
All of this has been happening off my radar for the most part this year, but over the last few days I haven’t been able to shake the urgency in Beth Kanter’s reports on Twitter. A little poking around and I realized that Beth–awesome person, mother to adopted children from Cambodia and board member for her org, The Sharing Foundation–could actually help win this thing. She is in FIFTH place right now, just forty-something donations away from nudging into the top four at 3PM EST! (You can read more about her cause here.)
She called her network to action and they responded. Read the comments, they all gave to the Sharing Foundation because they trusted Jen and because Jen trusted me. This is an example of how love spreads. This is an example of the networked effect.
Now, I could quantify it ... sort of it with a network diagram .. that is if the back end of the donation tool tracked that sort of thing or at least gave me data to map it out. I could track it sort of manually, but not sure how to begin to do that. So, I won't attempt to quantify love, but just point it out as an intangible.
Maybe the Case Foundation will evaluate this project and provide some methods for doing this type of analysis ...