Answer the following with your gut. Your friend sets you up on a blind date. If it goes terribly, was it a good decision to go? What about if it goes amazingly well, then was it a good decision to go? Did you see what your brain just did?
It’s completely natural for us to take the outcome of an event and then backfill the logic about the process. Bad date? The friend must not really know us as well as we thought. Good date? That Ingenious matchmaker! Annie Duke calls this phenomenon resulting.
Resulting happens any time we use an outcome to judge a process. Resulting is our default setting for understanding sports, markets, which lane to drive in on the highway, etc. We all do it. It’s not “bad” but if we want high-quality feedback to improve on any specific process in our own (or our clients’) lives, it is lazy and ineffective.
It’s easy to forget that whatever happened was one of many different potential outcomes. That stock tip that went straight up? It could have been a dud. The one that failed? Nobody takes a tip for the joy of failure – we take the tip because we can see a future where we became fabulously rich. To fight resulting we have to remember that a range of outcomes exists for everything. Everything.
We also tend to suspect, in hindsight, that outcomes are more correlated to processes than they actually are. We should compare Jim’s stock tip to some dart-throwing monkeys. “What are the odds” is a powerful question. Generally, we want to understand if and how the process is related to the positive result. Jim’s level of passion may have little to do with the success of his tips, and mostly be explained by random luck.
Whether it’s blind dates, stock tips or the last play of the big game, it’s easy to forget about the range of potential outcomes and the amount of influence that luck has to play. Once we know when we’re resulting, we can stop ourselves – and then focus on developing the habits needed for finding better processes to reach our desired outcome.
When our clients “can’t believe something happened,” remember how resulting works. When our business plans backfire, remember resulting then too. Most importantly, remember that it doesn’t give us a pass, but it does force us to really look at our process and tease skill and luck apart where appropriate.