Avoiding Unintended Consequences

The idea of unintended consequences isn’t new.  From John Locke to Adam Smith, from economists to sociologists, the implication that decisions in a complex system may create unexpected or undesirable outcomes is widely accepted.


In our world today, we strive to avoid unintended consequences through discipline, intentional decision making processes.  When we rush to make decisions, when we make decisions based in impulse or emotion, we often fail to take the time to thoughtfully consider the consequences of our actions.


We must develop our ability to process the desired outcome of our own behavior.  We can’t control the events we encounter; we often inherit situations and are expected to respond appropriately.


Processing the situation, asking the question, “What is required of me to achieve the desired outcome?” is essential.  The outcome must be more than ‘in the moment” . . . the outcome must take into account unforeseeable consequences.  Making an easy decision now . . . giving in to the temptation to take the easy way out or to achieve instant gratifications . . . often falls right into the trap of negative unintended consequences down the road.


We live and work in a complex system.  There are very few easy decisions.  Thousands of students count on us every day.  Make sure you take the time to process each situation – to press pause and consider what is required of you – to avoid unintended consequences.

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