Evaluation, Pixar style

Everyone working in charity communications struggles with evaluation.

In fact, if you’re a charity communicator and you don’t struggle with evaluation then you’re probably doing something wrong.

pixars-ed-catmull
Pixar’s Ed Catmull

I’ve certainly spent a lot of time questioning my own approach to it. I find there are two competing forces within me: one that looks for a metric for everything and another that believes your gut is often more reliable than your KPIs.

So I thought it was worth mentioning that I’ve recently finished Creativity Inc, an excellent book by Ed Catmull, the computer scientist and president of Pixar.

In it, he explains Pixar’s approach to evaluation and I found it reassuring that the creative minds behind Woody and Buzz grapple with the same kind of issues in measuring impact as we do.

There’s much for us working in charity communications to learn from the pragmatic approach Ed takes to it:

“‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’ is a maxim that is taught and believed by both the business and education sectors. But in fact, the phrase is ridiculous – something said by people who are unaware of how much is hidden.

“A large proportion of what we manage can’t be measured, and not realising this has unintended consequences. The problem comes when people think that data paints a full picture, leading them to ignore what they cant see.

“Here’s my approach: measure what you can see, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you cannot measure the vast majority of what you do. And at least every once in a while, make time to step back and think about what you are doing.”

 Good advice, worth remembering!

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