Jan 13th, 2018

Unintended Consequences

In my early physics classes, our teacher drilled the action/reaction model into our heads. Every action creates a related (and predictable) reaction. What we did not talk about was the concept of “unintended consequences.”

In the real world, almost any action we take does not only create the desired reaction but also a series of unintended consequences. Those range from the big and dramatic (for example the sea change a business such as Uber brings to the world – with all its intended and unintended consequences) to the small and personal.

As a leader in exponential times your action/reaction lever is not only getting bigger; with it, the severity of your unintended consequences increases as well. It is your responsibility to think not just through your actions but take full ownership for the results – intended or not.

Maybe more immediate you ought to do so on the small and personal scale. How often did we say something to create a specific (short-term) outcome without taking into account the cascading unintended consequences?

The next time you take action, stop a moment and think through all the consequences – how can you mitigate potential negative ones, how can you amplify the positive ones?

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