Unintended But Predictable Outcomes

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Unintended Outcomes

I was reading the July 2015 issue of Scientific American, specifically an article entitled “Evolution From Wolf To Dog” (Morrell, Virginia, p. 60) and it got me thinking about how our 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.

Because of the ongoing scientific mystery regarding our “best friends” origin, there are several groups studying possible, 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 to be 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 this.).

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 for enhancement of tamer behavioral characteristics.   Who would have predicted it?  As it turns out some might have because the breeding of rats and mink have resulted 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 intended outcomes that involve some important, valuable behavioral tendencies like productivity, organizational health, innovative team participation … or other desired behavioral outcomes but you may unintentionally have built an 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 strengthening natural tendencies of employees.  Things like obedience, desire to reduce pressure, tendencies to make the environment harmonious, and behavior that fed back a sense of positivity by agreement without buy-in.  This can and does happen when talent strategies are not well designed and/or communicated.  You could 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

© 2015 Stratalyne Business Solutions LLC

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