6/10/21: Results are, by definition, what the system was designed to create
- I've finished my Make the Leap Coach's Guide and created a team packages page with special pricing (finally!). I haven't started marketing it yet, but I thought I'd give you all a sneak preview for being subscribers.
This week's Think Better Newsletter looks at evaluating systems based on output, not intent.
We often get caught up in arguments about outcome versus intent. We set a goal, start working hard toward it, and then...it doesn't work. We don't achieve it. Or worse, we don't even make significant progress.
Hard work is a core component of success. But only if you're doing the right activities. Which brings me to a critical truth we all need to acknowledge a little more:
Our results are, by definition, what the system was designed to create.
Systems--and here I mean everything from governments to training programs--produce a limited range of outcomes, some more likely than others. If you don't like those outcomes, doing the system more won't improve the situation.
What does this mean in the real world?
- If a school system results in kids failing or not learning, that's what the system was designed to do.
- If a political system disenfranchises a group of people or elects nincompoops, that's what the system was designed to do.
- If a business owner can't generate any profits, that is what their actions are designed to do.
- If the media drives people to more and more extreme beliefs and destructive behaviors, that is what their output was designed to do.
- If a training program leaves runners left out, burnt out or injured, that's what the training program was designed to do.
It doesn't matter if the educator, politician, entrepreneur, developer and coach didn't intend for that result. The result is what the system produced.
It is not because anyone intended that outcome and it is not the fault of the participants. It is a feature--or flaw--of the system.
A good educator cannot be judged by how much they want their students to learn. A good politician cannot be judged by how much they respect democracy. A good business owner cannot be judged by how good their ideas are. A developer cannot be judged on how they want their app to be used. A good coach cannot be judged by how much they care about their athletes.
A good system takes the participants as they are and gets them to a desired result. If it doesn't achieve that result, then it needs to be redesigned.
When you are not getting your intended results, you need to do two things:
First, accept that you may know less than you think. (This requires humility.) Maybe your strategy is overlooking a key variable. Maybe it requires more time and energy than you have to devote. Maybe your competitors are doing something you aren't. Maybe it's just really complicated.
Make a point to separate intent from output. If you are pushing on a door that says pull, pushing harder isn't going to open it. Take a step back and make sure what you're doing has a realistic shot at working.
Second, assume that you will need to change. (This requires accountability.) Maybe you need to literally do different behaviors. Maybe you need to communicate differently with others to get them to change. Maybe you need to change paths entirely and pursue a different goal, something more aligned with what you want to do.
It's ok to try something and fail. We may not know what's going to work when we get started. What's not ok is continually doing the same ineffective behaviors but calling it success because you're trying.
From our elected officials to our company revenues to our individual race performances, our results are the output of the systems we've put in place.
If we don't like our results, it's a sign that the systems need to change. That is not easy, but it's more effective than wasting our time on something that we have evidence doesn't work.
Are you assuming your lack of progress is going to magically change because you are trying?
Go Be More,
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast
- The Far Side, by Gary Larsen (I owned this shirt when I was 12.)
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