More and more, research indicates that one of the keys to success is mindset – the frame of mind through which we perceive, interpret and organize our complex world. In fact, science is showing – through studies with athletes, medical patients and students taking tests – that subjects change their reality by shifting their mindset. My favorite study was about vegetable consumption. Researchers gave one group information touting vegetables’ health properties. They gave the other group tantalizing descriptions of vegetables, e.g., caramelized zucchini bites. Vegetable consumption went up 41% in the group that was given the alluring descriptions. In today’s environment, mindset is even more important. Simply put, mindset matters. It is an important piece of the puzzle in the success of the social sector, as we examine how to make effective change both within our organizations and with those we serve.

Mindset is also important as we move past evaluation and impact measurement (two less-than-alluring terms) to “impact management” in the social sector. Managing impact is not only about using tools, such as theory of changelogic models and culture development, but it is also about cultivating the right mindset of curiosity, continuous improvement and change management.

To illustrate this and give us all a “mindset boost” this week, we thought we would share some of our favorite quotes on the subject and their importance to impact management:

“The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.”– Arthur C. Nielsen

Measurement is a starting point that leads to data-driven decision-making. It helps you create clarity as a team on what really matters and focuses attention on tracking results.

This requires a mindset of openness.

“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.” – Marshall McLuhan

Rather than blindly going into a social venture or following the loudest voice, we should use data to question, inform and shape decision-making. The cost of failure is high in the social sector, so we have to use methodologies, such as lean startup, to get a head start on success.

This requires a mindset of discipline.

“Data should never be the master; it should be the servant.” – Suzanne Smith

I find myself saying this a lot lately. Because data is so easy to find and so fun to review in the beginning, it can become a trap. I am reminded of a business school professor who once told me, “There is no such thing as perfect information.” Sometimes you have to resist the temptation to keep reviewing data and see it merely as a tool to point you in the right direction to get started. Then, use experience as a guide as you continue to monitor your journey.

This requires a mindset of discernment.

“He who would search for pearls must dive below.” – John Dryden

It’s easy to become buried in data. Success comes from crafting the right questions and doing the right analysis to find the pearls – the insights that are the key drivers in your organization or program. Collecting data is merely the starting point. You find the pearls through reflection, analysis and execution.

This requires a mindset of curiosity.

“I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

If you look for data to find an answer or prove a point, you will find what you are looking for. We as human beings are highly susceptible to confirmation bias. Massaging data to support a theory is dangerous in the social sector and will only lead to problems down the road.

This requires a mindset of impartiality.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

Regardless of how brilliant you think your data is or how important your insights are, they are meaningless unless they are communicated in a way people can understand and act upon. Have you ever sat in an audience while a smart person droned on about a complex topic? Just because the presenter understands something, doesn’t mean everyone else will pick up on it easily, especially if they can’t summarize its significance.

This requires a mindset of storytelling.

“Never confuse motion with action.” – Benjamin Franklin

No value is created unless you execute. Reports don’t create action. I often say that the outcome of planning is not the plan; it is momentum. If you don’t feel more energized after planning, something is wrong with the process or the result.

This requires a mindset of change management.

By changing the way we view and interact with the world, we can begin to achieve greater success in our organizations and for our clients. We hope you have been inspired by these quotations as well as their meaning to help us transform the social sector. If you have quotes or tips that inspire you, please share them.


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