WorldWide Drilling Resource

38 JUNE 2022 WorldWide Drilling Resource® The Un-Comfort Zone II by Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. The Cost of Unintended Consequences When we make decisions based on emotions, we often achieve results we didn’t want. Several years ago, a 50-acre wooded lot at the end of my block was developed and dozens of houses built. Those of us living up the street started noticing more wildlife in our yards: raccoons, opossums, fox, and squirrels, and in our homes we experienced an invasion of rats. I was grossed out and reacted accordingly (to my emotional response of revulsion) by purchasing rat poison. I was told the poison would make the rats thirsty, and they would leave the house in search of water. I left a bowl of water outside for them and found many dead ones there the next morning. Unfortunately, others found moisture condensing on the air conditioner pipes inside the walls of my house, and died there. The stench of dead and decaying rat bodies plagued the breathable air in my house for weeks. Having learned from the unexpected repercussions of poisoning, I researched the problem. I learned the best way to keep rats out of a house is to eliminate the entry points. It took me weeks, but I eventually sealed off every opening the rats were coming in, and I haven’t seen a rat since. If only I had done the research first, instead of reacting emotionally, I might have spared myself (and my family) the nauseating odor that permeated the house for six weeks. We’ve all done it; made rash decisions in the heat of the moment, only to regret the results. It’s called the Law of Unintended Consequences, and there are several others terms for this phenomenon including: Murphy’s Law, Cobra Effect, Iatrogenics, Butterly Effect, and Blowback. According to Rob Norton, Forbes magazine economics editor, the law of unintended consequences which is often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people - and especially of government - always have unanticipated or unintended effects. Economists and other social scientists have heeded this power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it. We Unconsciously Collude in Creating Consequences - So, if I do it, it only affects me (and those close to me), but when a politician does it, it affects millions. But what is motivating the politicians? Us! When problems occur, whether it is a natural disaster, or a man-made one, emotions over reason often direct decision making. The media picks up on the story, and if possible, will fan the flames of fear to build a larger audience. This in turn, enables them to sell more advertising. If the media is successful in agitating their audience, the people then start demanding immediate solutions from their government representatives. The politicians feel the pressure, and wanting to stay popular with the voters, feel they must do something - anything - without considering the long-term potential outcome. When reason is abandoned, rushed action leads to ill-formed decisions, which, in turn, can cause unintended consequences. We, as constituents, exacerbate the problem when we suspend our critical thinking and demand action. The politicians are always glad to accommodate us, especially when it increases their power. A Few Examples - History is rife with examples of unintended consequences caused by government. Prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. led to the formation of organized crime. Kudzu, a perennial climbing vine native to Japan, was planted in the southern U.S. during the 1930s by the Department of Agriculture to control soil erosion; however, the warm temperatures in enabled the plant to grow 12 inches daily. Kudzu now covers hundreds of thousands of acres of land where it smothers trees and other native plant species. In 1958, the Chinese government declared war on sparrows because the birds ate fruits, nuts, and seeds. People were rewarded for killing sparrows until the birds were nearly extinct. Then it was discovered that rice harvests had declined significantly because there were no longer enough sparrows to eat the insects that ate the rice crop. Without the sparrows, the insect population exploded and destroyed so many crops it led to the Great Chinese Famine, which caused 20-45 million people to die of starvation. Fortunately, not all unintended consequences are bad. For example, economist Adam Smith in the 18th century referred to an “Invisible Hand” which creates unintended social benefits and public good by individuals acting in their own self-interest. In other words, the people who invent better products and services do it to enrich themselves, yet they unintentionally benefit all of humankind. Patience is the Key to Prevention - Our nature is to do something, but when a problem occurs, is it really necessary to act? Oftentimes, if we are patient, the problems will work out by themselves. If there is something in the news making you anxious, before you phone your politicians, turn off your TV and try practicing mindfulness instead. Robert Robert is an innovation/change speaker, author, and consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive through innovation and with people who want to think more creatively. Contact him via e-mail to June is National Safety Month, a time to reflect on working conditions around the country. Ongoing education about safety methods can help employers improve job environments year-round for everyone. NNational Safety Month June 2022