Most organizations track some data points and behaviors but often these are measures of actions that have already occurred. The lagging indicators are like autopsy reports: they tell an important story but do little to change the present circumstances.

One way to overcome this is to reimagine the types of things that you track. The School Retool project monitors “uncommon measures” that allow then to forecast outcomes before they happen through paying attention to connected behaviors. My favorite example: to assess the level of trust in a school they looked at whether ketchup was freely available in the cafeteria or whether it had to be requested. Schools that trusted their students to properly use condiments also had high levels of trust in other areas like student voice. Ketchup is, of course, not the only indicator they considered, but it did provide clues to other key behaviors they were monitoring.

Rutgers University wanted to assess student conduct so looked at the logs of students who had been transported to the hospital because of excessive alcohol use. They merged multiple data sets to find that football games with lopsided scores resulted in a greater number of transports, allowing them to proactively anticipate and try to head off conduct violations.

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh monitors collisions – which he defines as “serendipitous personal encounters” – as a way gauge not only the culture of his company but the to assess the community feel of the Downtown Project, an urban renewal project he is spearheading in Las Vegas. There he monitors the number of “collisionable hours per acre” as his measure of success.

Personally, I use an uncommon measure for a puppy’s future obedience and companionship by its tolerance for being held upside down and having its belly rubbed. I watch for blog follows from people I do not know as greater predictors of success than likes from pre-existing friends or fans.

It is easy to monitor the same things that everyone else does, but what does your intuition tell you about the small behaviors that forecast the larger actions you desire? Measure those and you may find uncommon success in your goal achievement.

Sources: watch the great 4-minute “Uncommon Measures” video with several more examples

A University Took an Uncommonly Close Look at Its Student-Conduct Data. Here’s What it Found. By Dan Bauman in The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 24, 2018

Tony Hsieh example in The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, 2018, p. 66.


Leave a Reply