Measuring Change

August 19, 2021

The key lesson I learned decades ago as a college student activist was that the phrase “I want to change the world“ is dangerous because it ends up being more about the “I” then about “change” or the “world.” 

And that leads to arrogance, to thinking I know what’s best for you, and, at the extreme, to seriously bad consequences (think dictators).

So, over time I began to practice a less egocentric approach to change.

This connects to the most important metric we measure at Collaborative Gain.

This metric is not a financial metric. 

It’s not a loyalty or retention metric. 

It’s not even really a customer experience metric.

It’s a metric about *your* potential to change and grow.

Before I explain more, let me share a story.

In 1993, I took my first corporate job as a trainer in the technology department at Moody’s Investors Service. I was the most junior person in one of the less powerful departments in the company (think old IT mindset).

Two and a half years later, I not only had been promoted rapidly, but had gained admission to the Harvard Business School.

How did I do that? 

There’s a lot to the story including my outside work on the Internet, my product manager skills (I was a practicing software PM before we had the language), my positive political skills, my commitment to learning, and, most importantly, all the help I received along the way.

If I had to pick one factor among these it was my ability to ask for help every day.

As you know, my mom originally taught me to ask. 

But it was at this moment in my life that I began to do it all the time and that changed everything.

I had a small informal council and I had a friend, a coach, who agreed to help me even though I couldn’t pay. 

I would reach out to my coach or fellow council member, share a situation – a challenging conversation with my boss, for example – and we’d talk about how to handle it. 

I’d then call back, sometimes a few hours later from an outside pay phone (yep, no cell phones back then), and report what happened and talk about what to do next. 

I did this throughout my tenure at Moody‘s, HBS, and at McKinsey after graduation.

And I still ask for help every day – from my own council, from colleagues, from friends, and from that coach, whom, yes, I do now pay.

My consistent practice of asking for help has enabled me to keep growing and changing the world – i.e., to build Creative Good, found Collaborative Gain, Slow Art Day, Reading Odyssey, and the Warren Buffett Reading Group, while running my own investment fund, and writing books.

And it’s why I want *you* to start asking for help all the time. It will literally change your life.

And that brings me to the most important metric we measure: the AFH (ask for help) metric.

AFH measures the percentage of current CG members who reach out on their own initiative to ask for help at least once in a given year.

We not only want you to ask for help, we want you to become practiced at initiatingasking for help.

In the first decades of CG, the AFH metric was about 1% – 5% — many more asked for help, but most did not initiate asking (instead, we helped them ask through our “question farming” activities, which we don’t count in the AFH metric). 

Today, AFH is *much* higher than those earlier years:


We are proud of that. 

Nearly one third of you initiate asking for help.


But know this: we will not rest until AFH hits 100%.

This is our mission because we know that *if* you become practiced at initiating asking for help, then you will get the support to change yourself and the world in ways that you want.

And that’s exactly the kind of activism I can get behind. 

P.S. We only count the AFHs we are aware of. We know you sometimes reach out to each other on your own to ask for help. Unless we somehow know about that connection, we don’t count it. That’s fine. We’ll measure what we can in a consistent way and look to get that to 100%.

P.P.S. Last week’s column on “Positive Politics” got a great response. As mentioned, we’ll be rolling out a pilot roundtable series and as soon as we are convinced it’s good, we’ll open it up to everyone. More soon.

Recent Talks and Activity Recordings

  • Clubhouse and the Audio Revolution (not recorded)
    Jonathan Ehrlich, Partner, Foundation Capital
    Talk Type: In the Moment 
    Audience/Roles: All Roles
     Two things to know about Jonathan Ehrlich:
    1) he co-led the seed round in Clubhouse and was thus the first venture capitalist to spot its potential;
    2) he’s a Councils alum with an interesting career arc.We held an informal conversation with Jonathan about Clubhouse, the future of audio, and Jonathan’s career journey from a mostly offline retailer in Canada to relocating to Silicon Valley and reinventing himself.—
    —Jonathan Ehrlich is a Partner at Foundation Capital who invests in early early-stage consumer, marketplace, commerce, and SaaS startups and technologies. He joined Foundation Capital in 2013 as a partner after spending nine months with the firm as an entrepreneur-in-residence. Before joining Foundation Capital, Jonathan spent 17 years as an operator during which he founded three companies, built a $100M+ revenue business, and ran marketing for Facebook. He is the first institutional investor in Clubhouse and currently sits on the board of Bulletin and Chord. His Foundation and personal investments include Shelf Engine, Mainstreet, Truepill, Hooked, WayUp, League, Front, and Flexport. When not working, he can be found on his bike or chasing his four kids around.
  • No Ego, Part 2 (not recorded)
    Cy Wakeman, Best-selling Author and CEO
    Talk Type: Leadership Development, Culture
    Audience/Roles: All Roles
     We had a follow-up session with Cy last Friday that was amazing. We did NOT record it due to confidentiality. We will be planning more.

    In the meantime, you can watch the spring keynote with Cy, which was a GREAT session. Members loved it. I collected live case studies from members, which I anonymously shared with Cy to get her reaction on what was to be done. You gotta watch to see her great answers.

    Cy Wakeman is a drama researcher, global thought-leader, and New York Times best-selling author who is recognized for cultivating a counter-intuitive, reality-based approach to leadership. Backed by over 20 years of unparalleled experience, Wakeman’s philosophy offers a new lens through which employees and executives alike, can shift their attention inward, sharpen their focus on personal accountability, and uncover their natural state of innovation simply by ditching the drama.

    Deemed “the secret weapon to restoring sanity to the workplace,” Wakeman has helped companies such as Google, Facebook, Viacom, Uber, NBC Universal, NASA, Pfizer, Johns Hopkins, Stanford Health Care, Keurig Dr. Pepper, AMC Theatres, White Castle, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and countless others learn to navigate our rapidly changing world using good mental processes to harness energy wasted in workplace drama and reinvest that effort into achieving profound business results.
  • Battle Buddies – A Way to Support Your Teams
    Craig Hopkins, CIO, City of San Antonio
    Talk Type: Leadership Development; Skill Builder/Practitioner
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    We ran a short QnA-focused webinar with Craig to introduce an idea that has taken off in his org, the City of San Antonio, where he is the CIO.It’s called Battle Buddies. So, what is a Battle Buddy?Adapted from the US Army, a battle buddy is a partner assigned to an employee in an organization who is expected to assist his or her partner.Even though we are not in military combat, Craig says our corporate responsibilities can feel just as stressful and overwhelming at times.A battle buddy is not only intended for comradery and support, but also to help reduce stress, provide professional and leadership guidance, and at times, get into the trenches together to get things done. Since we will each be watching each other’s actions, we are all battle buddies to each other, as partners and as a leadership team, driven by our mission while adhering to our Core Values.Craig talked about how this has worked in his organization and how to set it up in yours.
  • JTBD in Large Distributed Environments
    Jay Haynes, Founder & CEO,
    Talk Type: Product; Skill Builder/Practitioner
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Jobs To Be Done has proven to be an effective methodology for building much better holistic end-to-end products and customer experiences.

    *But* CG Council member companies with large distributed environments are finding it difficult to apply JTBD in effective ways.

    Jay Haynes, CEO of thrv, and a global expert on JTBD will come and speak to the Councils community on this specific challenge of using the methodology in large, complex technology environments.
  • Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products
    Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin, co-Authors of Groundwork
    Talk Type: Product
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Product leaders are all too familiar with the one to two-year period it typically takes to train and coach PMs. Product leaders hire smart people and then work with them individually, guiding them through how to think about product management, and watching them develop. Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin wanted a much faster way to help cultivate efficient and effective product managers that consistently create products that delight customers, regardless of the industry, the environment, and the development methodology that the team employed. They took years of experience as product executives and working with hundreds of teams as product coaches to create a framework to Get Better at Making Better Products.

    The design philosophy and methodology behind Groundwork was created to help product leaders be confident that their teams were committed to solving the right customer problems, minimizing costly rework by using individualized needs, and leveraging actionable personas in big and small product decisions. Vidya and Heather want Groundwork to help product teams have a much higher chance of success in the market—and help every product manager shine.

    Join Vidya and Heather as they share the background, principles, and methodology behind the Groundwork to help you, and your team, get better at making better products. 
  • Making the Case for Empowering Your People
    Marty Cagan, Partner, Silicon Valley Product Group
    Talk Type: Product, Leadership Development, Culture
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    From Marty: “I have long been interested in the difference between how the best companies work, and the rest. Working with both types of organizations for so many years, there are many differences ranging from culture to process to staffing to roles to techniques. But at its core, strong product companies empower their people, and most of the rest do not. My focus over the past few years has been tackling this issue head-on, which means the product leadership. In this talk, we’ll discuss why this model consistently yields better results, and what’s necessary to transform to work like the best.”

    Marty’s Bio: Marty Cagan is the founding partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group, which he created to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising and coaching. Before starting SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay.As part of his work with SVPG, Marty advises tech companies of all sizes and stages, stretching far beyond Silicon Valley. Marty is the author of the industry-leading book for product teams, INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and the upcoming book EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products. Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe.
  • See talks from the last month and beyond here.​

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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