Bee Stings, House Fires, and Unintended Consequences

Have you ever been so focused on solving one problem that you completely overlook how your solution will end up creating an even worse problem?

Me neither (ahem).

Hopefully the bees are gone, at least

When I read this story about a homeowner’s attempt to rid his yard of bees via hot burning coals, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Apparently, this homeowner was fed up with bees in a hive in his yard. To solve the problem, he poured hot coals on the hive. A nearby mulch pile ignited.  The fire made its way into the attic and took firefighters nearly a half hour to douse. Somehow the bees stung 10 firefighters. Check James McEvoy’s article on the Robbinsville, NJ fire for more.

The situation, technically, isn’t funny. But I had to laugh simply because I could imagine doing the same type of thing.

Prevent unintended consequences by taking a step back

We can’t plan for every contingency. While hot coals to exterminate bees might be an obvious poor choice, even some of our most well-meaning, measured risk management decisions can’t anticipate every possible cause of loss.

But in order to give yourself the best chance to avoid unintended consequences, a la a house fire resulting from a bee eradication attempt, consider the following steps.

  1. Clearly identify the problem the problem you are trying to solve
  2. List possible solutions to the problem.
  3. Evaluate each, perhaps mindmapping possible consequences of each choice.
  4. Keep in mind the overall goals of your organization to confirm your solution not only solves the current problem, but also stays within the bounds of your ultimate vision and mission.
  5. Execute and hopefully don’t cause a fire.

Take a breath. Take a step back. Make sure that your risk management and problem solving decisions are actually good decisions.

[Tweet “The best way to avoid unintended consequences is focused effort tempered by overarching principles.”]

The last thing you want to do is to become like Wile E. Coyote: so obsessed with capturing the Roadrunner that he thinks tying himself to a rocket is a good idea.

Speak Your Mind