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?
While trudging along highways in Alberta all the way to the BC border, there are sections that are badly maintained and those that are kept good.
Apparently a local contractor that was assigned for many years to manage these roads was no longer awarded the contract, instead a subsidiary of a larger company took it on. A few miles from these bad roads are well-kept highway that have a different road maintainer.
Typical siloed work increases more stress and aggravation which leads to more work and waste of time, resources, and energies. They need to work together as an eco-system instead of partitioning work in a piece-meal fashion to contribute to the bigger picture- better infrastructure, better economic conditions, better quality of life for citizens across the province.
Think about the fourth impact of your actions, initiatives, and initial feedback. Then you are really thinking big.
There is a vast number of non-profits and start-up companies in the galaxy looking or searching for financial resources to enable them to do what they want to do.
Director A said: Well, we don't know what the government will do next, we just have to wait and see!
Director B said: We don't know what the government will do next, we will go ahead despite the uncertainty and forge a strong future so we can mitigate these vacillations.
Who do you think has a better fighting chance getting out of this stronger, better, and more successful?
All about mindset, my friend.
When every one is trying to defend their previous standing, those that are willing to invest in a longer term sustainability will have the likelihood of actually making it.
What is legacy and how do you leave a good, lasting legacy to your family, communities, workplaces, industry, and country?
Legacy for me is what you do right now- an accumulation of life long work, passions, happy memories, and great contributions. It is not about what you leave behind so that families and friends can remember you well but it is about who you are and what you do that gets the biggest impression on people. It is not the attempt at " leaving" but the attempt at "contributing" right now, when it matters the most.
Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing one of the best women leaders of Alberta, Lyn Radford, the Chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games which the City of Red Deer proudly hosted. Talking about the successes and accomplishments of this community effort, Lyn noted that there were significant legacies of the Games.
First was the physical infrastructure that the City of Red Deer now owned as a result of the Games. Second was the legacy in volunteerism which was observed that the next generation stepped in and provided a strong leadership. And third but not the least, the historic moment for Red Deerians through collaboration with countless individuals and organizations to make it a community endeavor.
Truly, when people and communities come together, insurmountable problems can have enduring solutions. It was a memorable moment for Central Albertans and for the next generation to enjoy its legacies.
Lasting legacies are what we do on a daily basis. That is what our families and friends will remember about us by. Learn to be the best example of the virtues and values you want to live with and do not refrain from doing your best to serve others in need.
Mission-based organizations should think twice about creating more mission work without the full support and wisdom from a business sustainability standpoint.
Most of the time, they wrestle with the fact that since they have the work of helping, they should be able to marshal resources, support, and other important resources to fully realize their objectives. This is never automatic.
It takes a lot of courage and guts to realize that mission is not enough and will not be sufficient to carry the organization through its many stages of development.
If there is no evolution in management and business understanding, the mission becomes unproductive-"hence, give me because I give this back" will later on become subject to more critical and demanding requirements from society. This is painful to see as many organizations languish in near obsolescence without realizing their fullest potential.
There is only one way- to review their business model and ask the most important question: if this is not working for us, can we be flexible in getting to our objectives through an alternative model of doing and being?
Let's approach this with an open mind and an open heart.
I was on a phone call last week talking to a major trade association staff. I inquired about the program I thought was still running and getting a lot of engagement from their membership based from the website page I viewed.
It turned out that that program did not exist anymore. It was terminated in 2015 after a few years running it due to many reasons. I inquired about other programs that they may have.
The staff, very knowledgeable about their association told me that based on their strategy, they would like to provide thought leadership through resources, information, knowledge products they produced on a regular basis. Because of this, they cannot be doing something else that might distract them or be contrary to this organizational goal.
Very well said.
I wish that a lot of organizations have effectively articulated and communicated where their organization is going and how to get there to all the vital organs of the organization, including the staff, volunteers, and key clients/customers.
As I was told, then I become more aware of their work and the kind of business strategies they have to operate effectively in this challenging environment.
The best strategies do not stay on the shelf, gathering dust. It is lived and experienced and harnessed by all the people and stakeholders that take time to develop and nurture them to shepherd its successful implementation.
I am a customer that is now more informed.