Unintended Consequences…

I was back in the UK this week. I took the opportunity to go and visit our Occupational Health team. I thought I should ask for an opinion about my knee…which although much better was still sore from my summer misfortune. The good news it’s fine. The bad news…another four to six weeks.

I also took opportunity to chat with our Occupational Health staff. They asked me how I was doing and feeling…and I asked them how they felt things were going overall. Good open questions. Often good ways of finding out interesting information. And today? Today I discovered a positive unintended consequence.

Unintended consequences are frequently not good. All too often, once a decision has been, something else – something unconsidered and never intended – happens that derails the original idea or plan. And unintended consequences appear everywhere – governments, companies, homes. People, technology, business…

Energy saving light bulbs are a great invention. The intent is obvious – for us all to use less energy. But one unintended consequence is that – in our house at least – we seem to have to turn our lights on at least five minutes before we use a room so that the lights reach full brightness first. Are we still saving energy?

Many towns have introduced bike lanes with the intent of encouraging a safer environment for cyclists. But one unintended consequence is that many car drivers seem to use the bike lanes as temporary (and illegal) road side parking bays. Cyclists now have to weave in and out of these parked cars – dangerous and worrying – whereas prior to cycle lanes, illegal parking was both harder and rarer.

Whenever we make a decision, it is inevitable that there will be unintended consequences. With that in mind, the key is not to avoid making decisions, but rather to consider unintended consequences as an important part of any decision making process. Accept, embrace and anticipate.

Whenever we make decisions, we should consider as many unintended consequences as possible before we implement. Another reason why I like to socialise new ideas and opportunities with as many people as possible – the more input I get…the more angles we consider.

Anticipating unintended consequences is always good; is often difficult; but will position us to be prepared and ready to deal with them when they appear. In addition, this allows us to monitor emerging events more closely to spot unintended consequences early to mitigate and – who knows – even enhance as they appear.

So back to Occupational Health where we were discussing the site as a whole…how are we doing in terms of health and wellbeing? I mentioned how pleased I was that we had agreed to offer the influenza vaccine again this year to everyone on site. The intent is clear – to keep our people free of influenza over the winter. This helps us as individuals, our families and it helps our business.

The unintended positive consequence – something I had never considered from us offering influenza vaccination – is that every member of our work force has reason to come and visit Occupational Health. A visit that allows for a brief but useful ‘open question’ conversation.

At the very least, it means that our Occupational Health get a sense of the overall health and wellness of the site. Are people feeling happy and motivated? Tired and anxious? Both of which are important to know. But I am also sure that many colleagues will use their visit to ask a question, or to seek advice, about something causing us worry – just like I did on my knee – and we will leave feeling better.

Positive unintended consequences.




About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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