This is not a law but a phenomenon in the social sciences that people by human nature make decisions based on what they predicted or expected to be the outcomes, and ignore the unintended, unexpected, unpleasant, and accidental consequences of those actions.
In the evaluation community, evaluators are trained to view these consequences as possible impact areas or emergent issues that the organization (doing the evaluation) need to be more serious about.
With confirmation bias, this is very difficult. We always want to hear or publicized what we have done, achieved, accomplished, that we have solved the problems. We do not hear about the consequences of say, moving budgets around, due to scarce resources, ignoring the 'small needs of small group of people,' whereby we can create winners and losers on a day-t0-day basis.
I was talking to a general manager of a research-based organization. He told me that "the pendulum has swung too far, cut off their head- which means at least 60% of research budget will be eliminated."
Research is one of those things that do not have a quick, immediate, sensationalized, dramatic effect/result on issues. This is one of those painstaking, often laborious, untelevised, mundane types of jobs where non-dramatic results are expected. The next genetic discovery to feed the next generation of people will not going to be the top headline in a newspaper. This is not the 'stuff" that could compete in attention with the Trump impeachment or the local Wexit movement.
Unintended consequences also do not manifest in quick turn-arounds. It can take years and years, until the impact is generalizable, can be described, and can be traced to those interventions that were conducted many years ago. Who will be there to ensure, report, and write about it for the world to know? Taleb talks about the 'silent evidence.' Because we don't know what we don't know, we are at the mercy of the present and what is palpable.
We, humans, like immediate gratification. We are wired to have our cake now, and eat it now too! Despite the call to delay gratification, it is very difficult to resist the temptation to get something out there, fast and furious, even when it is deleterious and completely misguided. Not all are cut out for it. The rest of us fall easily for some things and not for other things.
Which leads me to the next point about what to do with unintended consequences.
What we study, gets magnified. What we ignore, tends to occupy less of our cognitive space. Aside from embracing this idea, we need to be open minded about how our intended and unpleasant consequences impact on the work that we do, and how we publicize our successes. With a grain of salt, we will be more sensitive about our actions, be accountable to those that we serve, and negative impacts should be part of the rigor of metrics we use to make critical judgements about our resources.
Yes, we would like new hospitals, new playgrounds for the kids, new schools, and new airport, all the nice amenities of city living. But who will pay for it and who will get less as a result?
We live in an age where there is an oversupply of choices and options.
I remembered, I was two or three, when we only had 2 channels in our black and white television set which was given away by a generous relative. Those days when only a few people in the community can afford to own a set, the whole community will gather to watch whatever show it had on. It was fun, having all your neighbors in one room, all glued to the tube. Those were the days.
Now, we have hundreds of channels to choose from cable and over the video streaming, there are hundreds of shows to watch. There are also pay-per-view channels to choose from and of course, the extinct DVD/CD watching, which became a staple in 90s and early 2000s.
How is this oversupply of choices make for decision-making?
We become paralyzed, unable to make the right choice.
We have to conduct research to suit our 'unique' situation and preferences, and most of the time, postpone making a decision.
When the need to become more informed is a prerequisite, it has become too much of a burden to even do it.
Most of the time, we listen and rely on the most popular feedback or comment about the product or service from friends and people we trust.
This has not changed although, there are more creative and insidious ways than ever before to promote and spread buzz around. There is a store in our area that says 'closing sale' for few consecutive years now. They haven't closed ever.
This paralysis analysis over products and services will continue because we will have more choices for some things and less for some things in the future. That distinction is something that we need to grapple on.
At the microcosm of the decision-making, here are some ways to stamp out the paralysis analysis:
1. Know the 'musts' and be open to 'preferences.'
There are certain things you can't live without and there are certain things your spouse/children or relatives or friends would prefer more than you do. You can live with the latter.
2. Know the real need it is trying to resolve.
The seller will sell you all kinds of features but is it actually resolving the need, replacing the old, and giving you a new framework to live with?
3. Investigate but keep an open mind.
There are tons of fake news and comments about products and services. 1/2 of the people will say it is good and half will say don't even go there. But it is up to you to you know what you don't know and try it before you can make an honest judgement.
How are you dealing with too many choices and considerations? Share your thoughts here.
I caught myself driving in a snow storm last night.
At one point, there was no visibility except the peripheral views of the shoulder and the obscured images I couldn't seem to define.
Except at the end of that episode was the traffic sign that says -drive 60km here, that I felt confident that I was moving steadily towards my destination.
After that, the squall ended, I saw better and had the momentary pleasure to be comforted at the prospect of getting hope fine despite the weather.
How many organizations do not seem to have a clear signpost of where they are supposed to go?
Should they turn here or go straight?
Should they speed up because it is an easy drive or they need to calibrate for the conditions?
Should they be anticipating to stop and pause, or should they run like there is no tomorrow?
Without these signals, it is literally like driving without visibility. Pilots can come down with the plane with less visibility because they have the instruments to help them land safely. Without these, it would be reckless and dangerous to even attempt to do it.
If you are going full throttle, do you have the mechanism to simply get a bird's eye of how things have been from a third-party who can completely, independently, and without self-interest, honestly tell you how things are actually going?
Get yourself a trust adviser. There are no downsides, but many upsides to it.
No matter how excellent you are in what you do, when you are tired, feeling low, and lacking self-care, you can slip into an auto-pilot and bad things can happen.
What to do when you feel that the tank is getting low?
1. Get out of your routine and walk around.
2. Ask for help and delegate.
3. Refuse to be involved in pity parties and complaints bureau.
4. Talk to a family member, friend, and a trusted advisor.
5. Call it a day and sleep.
6. Power down all tech gadgets and social media.
7. Journal your thoughts and write the best moments you want to cherish.
8. Exercise and breathe fresh air.
9. Watch a funny movie, listen to your favorite music, and play with a pet.
10. Enjoy silence and solitude.
Have peace in yourself and bounce back tomorrow.
The Fraser Canyon is beautiful and treacherous at the same time. It is not for new drivers as it is one of the oldest roads in B.C. Traversing this road takes skill, planning, and masterful execution to get through unscathed. It also takes familiarity with these roads to be able to set contingency measures along the way.
There are sharp turns, zigzags, and steep hills, and difficult narrow passes. It is important to stay awake, alert, and anticipatory of the next difficult move.
Taking sharp turns in management parlance has a different meaning. It means getting out of your normal situation (whatever that normal is) and taking risks to reinvent yourself, your organization, and your initiatives to take it to the next level, leaving behind anything that doesn't help you get there.
What are the signs saying that you need to take the next sharp turn? Traffic signs help you navigate difficult roads and alerting motorists of the potential dangers on the road. There are also signs that alert you that you are 'stuck' without you knowing:
1. People in the organization are defensive, conservative, and fearful of needful change;
2. People in the organization refuse to heed to environmental changes and trends that affect the business;
3. People are comfortable with the level of growth and do not want to 'rock' the boat that much;
4. Progress takes time and the next growth is such an uphill climb compared to when you are starting;
5. Deals run out, market shrinks, customers/clients stop buying for some reason;
6. The management is protective of earlier successes and cannot imagine a different future;
Some of these signs represent the truism that past success does not determine future performance.
Relaxing and cruising along is fine on a nice day in a nice road.
Do not do that when you are building your business or organization.
It's nice to reach a plateau.
You can have a break, walk around, smell the roses, enjoy the scenery, take some photos along the way, have a snack, and rest your legs after the long drive. But you can't stay too long.
All plateaus lead to a decline. While staying there increases pleasure and comfort, it doesn't allow you to reach new heights where you can experience a different level of accomplishment- the next summit.
Think about that in your organizational life and in your career trajectory.
You might be in a plateau too long to figure out you are running circles and not moving an inch to your destination.