Unintended consequences

Most decisions we make have unintended consequences. These unintended consequences are typically caused by the downstream effects of a decision, i.e., your decision results in something (that you likely hoped for), that, in turn, causes something you probably didn’t intend.

There are 2 ways to avoid negative unintended consequences –

1. Experience. If you’ve experienced it before, you know what to expect and how to guard against it. This is how good lawyers earn their keep. They are fantastic at scouring all available legal literature to make sure you are protected from negative consequences of important decisions.

2. Developing the discipline to let it play out in your head. While experience is ideal, if we’re learning and growing, it is likely that we’re exposing ourselves to new situations. And, developing the discipline to let the trickle down effects of our decisions play out in our head is vital to making good decisions. Lazy decision making has bad consequences – a decision whose immediate effects may look good may have bad after-effects. It is only when we make the effort to let decisions play out in our head do we understand the real trade-offs involved. Making decisions by understanding trade-offs to the best extent possible is good strategy.

A simple example of this is letting people schedule times on your calendar for meetings at random. If you have meetings scheduled every 2 hours every day this week, say goodbye to doing work that matters.

The interesting thing about letting the effects of decisions play out in your head is that you often realize that, while the context may be different, you’ve experienced something similar in the past. And, when realize you’ve seen the movie before, you also know exactly how it ends.

unintended consequences, decisions