What Counts

I mention Antonio Damasio’s research often. Take Eliott for example, one of Damasio’s neurology patients. Eliott had sustained damaged to the part of his brain that controlled decisions. He was able to apply logic in analyzing choices he faced, but his ability to experience emotions meant he couldn’t make decisions. It ruined his life. When I recount this story some people listen with fascination. On the other hand, many others resist, particularly investors, and say their investment decisions are entirely rational. Most people understand how emotions show up in buying decisions, but never in investment decisions. Based on Damasio’s research, emotions drive every decision and that there is data to prove it.

If we really want meaningful impact measurement, we need to capture information from analysis, emotion, body, and intuition and integrate them. Damasio’s research shows us that emotions drive decisions. Data with context can trigger an emotional response and therefore can drive a decision.

We are at risk of measuring things that do not meaningfully influence decisions and change behaviour for greater mutual benefit. More importantly, we are at risk of losing sight of why we’re doing the things we’re doing in the first place. If we end up with vanity metrics and we rely on them to make decisions, we’re at risk of making decisions that create more problems than we’re trying to solve. I have ambitions to write yet another book about more wholistic decision-making, to equip people to integrate analysis, emotion, body, and intuition (the first book being Integrated Investing). If we can achieve that, I believe we’ll make more compassionate decisions and be able to help more people. Helping people is the greatest impact possible and I was thinking about exploring how to assess whether we are actually helping people, how to decide where our investment will have the greatest impact, and how to communicate those results. In this day and age, when we are pushing our planet and its resources to their limits, optimizing how we allocate resources is a critical challenge worth solving.

Last year, I wrote a short introduction and outline for What Counts: Impact Measurement with Head, Heart, Body, and Soul. It’s really a decision-making book disguised as an impact measurement book. Let me know what you think.

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