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.”