S:0656 Principle: The Law of Unintended Consequences

(Principles are basic truths that, when applied, cause success to come to you easier and quicker.)


The Law of Unintended Consequences states that we can not always predict outcomes based on our actions. It is what happens when a simple system tries to regulate a complex system. Experiments in a lab (lab scale) do not always work when expanded to the real world (life scale).

Historically the LoUC was used to describe government actions which, when legislation is enacted to solve one problem, causes other undesirable results.

However the LoUC works beyond government. For instance, special sale events and coupons for discounts were initially intended to create short-term customer traffic.

But would you now buy a pizza without a coupon? When are mattresses ever not “On Sale!”? Is every month “Truck Month at your local XXX dealer”?

What about the quickly mentioned but seemingly significant side effects revealed in consumer ads for powerful drugs?

The point is not to not take actions for fear of consequences. Just be skeptical of any action which will “fix everything.” Life is complex. Respect that.


Coaching Point: What can you do to check the results of your decisions and actions to see if you, in solving one problem, have unintentionally created another?


Copyright 2008 Steve Straus. All rights reserved.