Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Well Meaning... Well Doing

I run into a lot of "well meaning" people in my work. I run into fewer "well doing" people. They are rarer, and more important. Here are a few observations:

Both are inspired, but I find the "well doing" to be inspirational (this has not always been the case- I have fallen for the siren song of the elegant concept... and probably will again).

In the fields of social entrepreneurship and impact investing, where impact is the ultimate goal, it is important not to confuse intention with impact.

Most well doing people are also well meaning, but the converse is not always the case.

Paul Graham urges entrepreneurs to "always produce" and Seth Godin asks "what have you shipped?" A good operating principle, and a good test of that principle. Complicated, of course, by the law of unintended consequences in this field where the desire to help others does not always translate into actually helping others. Right Professor Easterly?

The best "well doing" people are motivated by a desire to learn from, not just help, others. Examples of impactful co-creation are rare, but worth studying carefully. Examples of well intentioned "help that isn't" are not so rare, and are also worth studying carefully.

While I have been a skeptic on the issue of impact metrics, one of their most important uses may be to remind people of what really matters most. Metrics should measure mission, not drive it. And they need to be designed to measure what is done (are we "well doing"?), not what is meant to be done (are we "well meaning"?).