One of the classic coaching questions is “and what else?”. It exposes the fact that challenges – and solutions – are complex and often exist out of sight adjacent to the challenge being talked about.
The same is true for almost everything in a system – everything and anything we do has an impact outside of that being immediately considered, from the flap of a butterfly’s wing to education policy. We have understood this for a long time and yet we still insist on simplistic, linear apprasials of both actions and people. We do internal rate of return and cost benefit analyses on projects and are blind to what else happens – both good and bad – as an indirect result. The system never forgets, and brings things back into balance, increasingly in very inconvenient ways.
It’s true at a personal level. Increasingly anything we utter or write is captured digitally, stored away and connected. Those white lies or economies of truth we commit pop up years into the future when the context has changed but the action is captured in all its glory. Of course it’s not what we intended at the time, but that’s not the way it will look later.
The lesson for us is to be clear about what we are for and what we want to achieve. Our mission in other language. If we are true to that, the “what else” is less likely to trip us up. The more the mission has integrity, the less likely we are to be embarrased. The more it is about self or money, the bear traps there will be. It’s a general rule that like begets like, from generosity to greed.
A little mental note to consider “and what else” when we are busy doing things for expediency is a useful discipline.