How to prevent unintended thinking consequences


It’s wiser to sound foolish before than look stupid after. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

The Law of Unintended Consequences warns us that almost all human actions have unexpected results. A cause can have more than one effect, including unforeseen outcomes.

Here is my favorite example. In 1994 a disc jockey at a Dallas radio station tried to encourage reading. He told listeners that he had hidden up to ten thousand dollars in the books of a local library.

The unintended outcome? More than 800 people tore through the library, ripping covers off books, and dumping them when they failed to find money.

Can you prevent unintended consequences? Maybe not, but you can minimize the number and impact. Here’s how. Ask hat-if questions. The more and the sillier your questions, the better.

I think it’s wiser to sound foolish before than look stupid after. You see, accidents happen when things go wrong; unintended consequences happen when thinking goes wrong.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.