Jen van der Meer

When Hard Metrics Inhibit Success

Published: (Updated: ) in Clean Tech, Inhabitat, Open Forum, , , by .

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:

Hopenhagen  - We Had hope, Copenhagen
Hopenhagen – We Had Hope, Copenhagen

OK, so I caught your attention for a moment. In an economic cycle like the one we’re currently experiencing, it’s impossible to make any move or decision that is not tied to hard, cold, clear metrics. Increase sales by X%. Attract Y new customers. But there are times when overemphasizing numeric goals can get in the way of success.

Case in point: an enormous pro bono project initiated by the IAA and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to increase awareness of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, called, optimistically, Hopenhagen. OK so I lost you at pro bono, but there are lessons here for anyone launching a new idea.

Hopenhagen is a communications campaign designed to reach a wider audience than the smaller niche of people who pay attention to climate talks. Leading several agencies in a pro bono project, Freya Williams, Senior Partner, Planning Director of Ogilvy and Mather New York discussed the aim of the campaign, which is to get the public to move from “coping” with climate change to one of “hope.” Through a social marketing-based petition, the campaign asks people to become a citizen of Hopenhagen. But there is no publicly stated goal for the number of signatures they are collecting. “The vision is to move beyond the sense of disempowerment and inertia that many feel,” to send a message of “hope” and optimism. The campaign’s effect cannot be measured in pure numbers, because the true impact is what that message inspires, how it reaches an audience who may otherwise tune out and how other people and organizations define the idea on their own terms.

Examples of these serendipitous acts occurred without direct prompting from the people who envisioned Hopenhagen. The city of Copenhagen is so inspired; they will rename the entire city “Hopenhagen” in December. “Signs will great the UN Delegates, saying ‘Welcome to Hopenhagen,’ and the city will replace all of the C’s with H’s on street signs, highways, and everywhere the city’s name appears to people attending the treaty ratification,” described Marc Alt, a green design activist who is inspired by the effect to the campaign. Even the Danish Soccer team will play as the Hopenhagen soccer team in order to support the idea.

How this translates to the hard reality of entrepreneurs, slugging it out everyday to ensure that their business survives and thrives in this economy? Create a groundswell of support for your idea by thinking big, appealing to people emotionally, and moving beyond short term achievable metrics as the primary goal. You may be pleasantly surprised with what people do to support and adopt and promote your idea.

Image rights granted by Hopenhagen for posting.