Unintended But Predictable Outcomes

Unintended Outcomes

I was doing some research and, in the process, found in the July 2015 issue of Scientific American, an article entitled “Evolution From Wolf To Dog” (Morrell, Virginia, p. 60) and it reminded me about how intentional goals can end up with some unintended and unexpected outcomes.  The article explains that the dog was the first domesticated animal but that scientists have not been successful in determining how this came about.  Recently through DNA analysis it has been determined that dogs are not, as was previously thought, descended from Grey Wolves but instead are a parallel descendent of an, as yet, undiscovered ancestor that they have in common.  But that is an interesting other story for another day.

Because of the scientific mystery regarding our canine “best friends” origin, there are evidently several groups studying possible, but related scenarios.  One such scientific study has been going on since 1959 at Novosibirsk State University in Russia.  In this study, built to test for a plausible method that fit canine domestication, the Silver Fox was selected as a candidate to be experimentally bred, due to its tendency for, and to enhance for, its characteristic of tame natural behavior.  Now comes the interesting unintended outcome (I knew you were waiting patiently for me to get to the point.).

Over the generations bred, the Silver Fox’s offspring have developed the following characteristics: spotted coats, floppy ears, curly tails, and shorter/wider snouts!   All this change in appearance while being bred with the intent for enhancement of just their tamer behavioral characteristics.   Who would have predicted it?  In fact, it was a complete surprise.  But, as it turns out, some might have predicted it had they connected a few dots because the breeding of rats and mink had been found to result in similar outcomes.  Now, how do you think this all relates to Human Capital Management in your organization?  Should I leave it unsaid or not?  (I think not.)

∗ Talent and Intentions

You might be hiring and rewarding based upon a set of intended outcomes that involve some important, valuable behavioral tendencies like productivity, organizational health, culture, engagement,  innovative team participation … or other desired organizational behavioral outcomes but may unintentionally have built a machine that produces unintended outcome(s) in the process.  Imagine that human nature were such that, with a certain lack of clarity thrown into the mix, efforts to enhance desired outcomes were really having the unintentional effect of strengthening or amplifying the natural tendencies of employees.  While intending to develop innovative risk neutral behaviors we  might be developing a culture of obedience, desire to reduce pressure, tendencies to create harmony, and even behavior that promoted a sense of positivity by agreement without buy-in.  This lack of intended results can and does happen when talent strategies are not well designed and/or communicated if we aren’t attentive to cultural feedback and open to adjusting our approach.  Or, in other words, you may intend to breed a pack of aggressive wolves and end up with a bunch of lap dogs instead.

Something to think about and possible action to be taken from Stratalyne’s Blog.

Related articles:

Human Capital: A Source for Competitive Advantage by Russell Coff, University of Wisconsin School of Business, 2013

Richard Rumelt’s Tells CNBC About His Latest Book Good Strategy Bad Strategy, UCLA Anderson Blog, 2011

By Michael Sacco – MBA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

© 2017 Stratalyne Business Solutions LLC

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