Are you sure the things you do have the intended outcome?

We have been so lucky to have Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden doing workshops for our customers, friends and employees this week. They taught us how to use a deceptively simple model — the Improvement Kata — described by Mike Rother in Toyota Kata.

Improvement Kata, Mike Rother

Although the model is simple, using it is hard. We all realized during the workshops that we are overconfident in our ability to prescribe what to do to get a certain outcome. In fact we are so confident that we rarely bother to check whether the action we take and the resulting output gives the wanted outcome.

To understand better the difference between output and outcome, do have a look at this video by Jeff Patton (recommended by Jeff Gothelf):

So why is this important? Our overconfidence leads us to wasting our energy on efforts that has lower effect than it could have, or in the worst case is counterproductive to what we want to achieve. This because we go through with our actions based on assumptions, but pretending they are facts. And since we are experienced, wise, people, it sometimes works very well. So well that the only way to make us change the way we behave is to make a really big error. In fact I learned in a doctoral dissertation defense last friday that a lot of innovative actions are born from failure. My guess is that this is because this proves to the person(s) doing this actions that they might be wrong in their assumptions, and inspires them to check often if they are on the right path. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could change our behavior without the proof from the big failure?

Russel Ackoff is quoted in Making ProgressThe 7 Responsibilities of the Innovation Leader:

“The creative act is always an act in which you identify the assumption that you have made which prevents you from seeing alternatives, removing that assumption, and exploring the consequences.”

If your organization want to change the way you work, do you set up broad training programs for all employees or a small scale experiment to test whether training actually is what will change the behavior of our employees as intended?

Get out your curiosity; define the outcome you want and experiment your way towards it. It will make you more innovative! And if you get better at seeing your assumptions, it’s even better.


Sense & Respond, Jeff Gothelf & Josh Seiden,

Making Progress, Ryan Jacoby,

Toyota Kata, Mike Rother: