Our government is full of morons. I know – and the sun is hot.
But seriously – we can learn a lot from their stupidity and lack of foresight. All too often our “leaders” identify problems they want to rectify. They then create a perfect solution targeted at resolving exactly the issue they identified.
And then stupidity happens. Why? Because the world isn’t static. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction folks (can I get a holla for Sir Isaac and 10th grade physics?).
Guess what? You do stupid stuff too (and so do I). Why? Because we don’t think far enough ahead about what the reactions in our environment might be. Today I’m going to share some of my favorite moronic decisions and their corresponding reactions and I’m also going to give you a great tool for staying out of the lack-of-foresight-stupidity-trap yourself.
To illustrate these points, allow me to share five of the stupidest government decisions I’ve ever seen and their unintended consequences. After doing so, I’ll share the simple question that will prevent you from being equally moronic. So here are the five stupid decisions…
Low Flush Toilets
“We waste a lot of water when we flush the toilet (3.4 gallons). We should reduce the amount of water a toilet flushes and make it a regulation that it can’t flush more than 1.6 gallons per flush. Reducing flush volume to that level will save tons of water and save our environment.” Wrong. I don’t know about you folks but the reduced water volume often necessitates significantly more flushes. Sure, we save some water but not nearly enough to prevent James Cameron from ecologically scolding us via Avatar.
Compact Fluorescent Lights
“Gee, these incandescent bulbs use a lot of energy. We should mandate compact fluorescent bulbs because that’ll save a lot of energy.” Two words: heavy metals (and not Metallica or Megadeth). Someone failed to think through the “what do we do with the bulbs after they burn out” question. Lack of foresight.
Time on Tarmac
“It’s really bad when travelers get caught on a plane on the tarmac for long periods of time. Let’s impose massive fines if the plane sits on the runway for more than two hours.” Duh. The airlines will cancel the entire flight and rebook everyone rather than eat a one trillion dollar fine. How did the government not see that equal and opposite reaction coming? And by the way, the volume of passengers adversely affected from cancellations far outweighs the much smaller number of folks who sit on the tarmac for a while.
Debit Card Fees
“We need to protect consumers from those evil banks so let’s impose a cap on fees banks can charge for people to use their debit cards. People will love us (re-elect us) if we do!” Wrong. Profits are like balloons. Push in one side and it pops out the other. Think it’s a coincidence that free checking is disappearing faster than Herman Cain’s supporters (remember him?)? Again – lack of foresight regarding how banks would react to margin compression on one product line – they’ll simply expand margins on other products to make up the difference.
Yes – our government is full of fools who can’t see one step past the problem in front of them. They end up “solving” one problem only to create others. They solve symptoms – not causes. By taking that approach, they’ll never get ahead because all they’re doing is creating more next-order problems.
Here’s my pointed question: does your organization think you would be a good fit for an elected position in the government? Do you only solve the first order symptom/problem and then you’re surprised by the unintended consequences?
Here’s the solution – a simple, two word question: “so what?”
When you see a problem, go ahead and generate your first solution. But don’t implement it. Instead, just ask “so what?” Ask it from the frame of “so what happens next if I pursue this solution?” That’s how you’ll uncover the first of several unintended consequences and reactions to your solution. Once you identify that first reaction, come up with a solution to it and again ask “so what?”.
If you pursue this approach a few times, you’ll have a better sense of the unintended consequences of your decisions and you’ll save yourself (and your organization) the headache of cleaning up the new mess you created as you tried to solve the original problem.
Go lead the thinking. Think beyond the initial problem and solution. Try to eliminate those unintended consequences before you put them in motion. If we all try to do that more often, maybe we’ll actually have fewer problems to solve.
– If you’re serious about getting better at leading the thinking, grab yourself a copy of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. There are plenty of suggestions in there for how you can see beyond the problem immediately in front of your face. CLICK HERE to get your copy.