February 18, 2011
Marketing methods intended to increase customer retention the drive clients to competitors. Efforts to prevent riots that cause them to happen. Countries that acquire weapons to increase their security but actually heighten their risk. Unintended consequences often occur, but there are ways to prevent them – if you understand the social mechanisms at play.
Historian and author Daniel Boorstin noted, “The unintended consequences of man’s enterprises have and will always be more potent, more widespread, and more influential than those he intended.” Today, a Google Web search for “unintended consequences” summons nearly two million pages citing the unexpected impact of government policies, new technologies, management decisions, and the actions of individuals. Unfortunate unintended consequences are becoming increasingly problematic as our world becomes globally and electronically interconnected, causing the results of our decisions to resonate across the globe.
In Best Laid Plans, the author examines how any action can have cascading impacts across time, place, and sector, explaining the eight social mechanisms of unintended consequences that complicate matters and often defeat best laid plans. This book will be of great interest to managers, analysts, researchers, or other employees working for businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations, as well as general nonfiction readers who delight in learning about how the world works.
William A. Sherden is adjunct professor at the International business School at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. His published works include the Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying and Selling Predictions and Market Ownership: The Art and Science of Becoming #1.