Collaboration Creativity outcomes-based approaches

Outcomes are the Direction of “How” (Not “What”)

image of utopian city model
Model Utopia, Masdar City, Foster + Partners, 2006-ongoing, by B, via Flickr, CC 2.0

The “how” of things is important in the ways that matter most, how we love, how we teach, how we educate our children. The results of those practices may be difficult to quantify but they can be verified. Are we cultivating creativity in those practices? Or are we mindlessly repeating the same patterns and messages we learned? Collectively, are we agile and responsive to needs as they arise, or are we rigidly continuing what we know does harm? We stubbornly focus on “what,” or the goals, we are trying to achieve despite our dismal track record – thinking we only need to change “what” the specific goal is in order to make major changes. I am proposing an outcomes-based approach to solving the world’s most tenacious problems.

An outcomes-based approach strikes a balance between the “what” and the “how” and allows for an array of related goals.  I propose that when we come together for a purpose, we explicitly acknowledge that purpose, we can co-create outcomes we actually want. Hopefully, we can also avoid unintended consequences that occur when we are too narrowly focused on specific goals. There are many potential paths to the same outcome. The outcome we thought we wanted at the beginning of the journey may turn out not to be for our highest good. Rather than committing to specific goals, make a commitment to outcomes. That way, we can collectively hold ourselves accountable to these outcomes as we take steps forward, beyond a single goal or single direction.

I think people confuse predictability with practicality.  It may be less predictable to lead according to the “how” but it is both practical and necessary if we are to adapt to and overcome new situations and territories – new “whats” as they become apparent. We need the “how” because in recognizing both “how” and “what” a trajectory is formed, a conscious direction, that allows us to stay on track at that future point when – inevitably – the temptation to fall into familiar patterns arises. Thus the “what” can be held and nurtured by the “how” – or it can be revised more easily if need be.

We need to rethink and rework the ways we meet, we collaborate, and the way we get things done by consciously considering our methods and acknowledging alternatives.  This will allow different abilities, perspectives, and creative solutions to flourish within the same group. Sticking with the known, knowing it creates obstacles for many and reiterates harmful patterns is insane.

I am still hopeful. I know there is already a better way bubbling up in pockets all around the world. The future utopia is here now if we simply get out of our own way and allow the time and space to consider “how.”

2 replies on “Outcomes are the Direction of “How” (Not “What”)”

[The “how” of things is important in the ways that matter most, how we love, how we teach, how we educate our children. The results of those practices may be difficult to quantify but they can be verified. ]

Activity theorists tend to use “Object > Outcome” to discuss this issue. They call this process the transformation of an object. I recently used “Result – Reward” to discuss “Outcome” for the Anticipatory Activity System Framework.

Result: First-order Outcome
Reward: Second-order Outcome

In a recent article, I also discussed the temporal distance between “Result” and “Reward”. I called this the Result – Reward Gap.

T1: When the Result is produced
T2: When the Reward is offered

This issue is critical because it is related to the reproduction of activity which requires various types of resources. If a creative person’s Result can’t be recognized as Creative Achievement in time, the person can’t receive a Reward in time. Thus, the person couldn’t offer enough resources to continue his creative activities.

This is a critical issue for the creative system of society.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful response to my post. I am intrigued by the idea of the result/reward gap and what could be mined in that gap. It is worth contemplation.

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