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  • Writer's pictureRichard M. Adler


Updated: Nov 7, 2019

Chances are that your business makes critical decisions regularly, such as developing new products, adjusting your workforce, and creating new partnerships or mergers. Or if you work for the government, your organization crafts and implements policies, laws, regulations, and diplomatic or military initiatives. How often do these important decisions turn out unexpectedly and badly? If you answer “frequently” you are in good company. Studies show that executives and managers are dissatisfied with many of their decision outcomes.

This blog examines the challenges of improving critical decisions through the lens of the Law of Unintended Consequences (LUC). LUC states that decisions to intervene in complex situations create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. You have undoubtedly seen LUC in action in the economy, in markets in which you participate, or in government. But how exactly does LUC cause decisions to fail? More important, what can you do to avoid or mitigate the unintended consequences of critical decisions in which you are involved?

My book, Bending the Law of Unintended Consequences, proposes answers to these questions. It draws on cognitive psychology, economics, and complexity science to explain the causes of LUC. It also presents a novel method for “test driving” critical decisions. This method uses simulations that enable you to practice critical decisions and learn from virtual rather than real mistakes. Improving your anticipation of outcomes allows you to avoid poor decisions and improve mediocre or good ones, resulting in more of the consequences that you intend.

This blog serves as a companion to the book, expanding on the concepts, techniques, and example decision test drives it presents. I welcome your questions, feedback, and suggestions for particular topics that you find interesting.


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