Cause and Effect

Unintended Consequences, Part II

In Part 1 of this 2-part blog, Orange Ain’t Tan!, Ty wrote about unintended consequences resulting from a new product that didn’t quite meet expectations. Here’s another twist on the same topic.

Ty Gable, President, National Precast Concrete AssociationThere’s an old parable from my hometown that goes something like this: Man and his wife are planning to go on a long car trip to see family over the holidays and spend a little quality time together. Wife has a long history of carsickness. So the man, as any caring husband would, goes to see his pharmacist buddy down at the neighborhood drugstore.

The pharmacist says, “You know Fred, these carsickness pills are awfully expensive, and I’m not supposed to do this, but since you’re a friend, let me tell you a little secret: I’ve got some carsickness pills for dogs that I can sell you for one-third the price. It’s the same basic medicine, we just sell it cheaper because it’s for dogs. You don’t even have to mention it to your wife.”

So the man gives his wife the pills, they go on the trip and few weeks later the man is back at the drug store picking up a pack of chewing gum. The pharmacist waves at him from behind the counter. “How’d those pills work out for your wife, Fred?”

“Just fine,” Fred answers. “She didn’t get sick at all, but she did spend most of the trip with her head out the window and her tongue hanging out.”

What’s the moral of this story? Most people think of the world in terms of simple cause and effect. But in life, as in business, it’s often more complicated. There’s the cause, the effect and often the unintended secondary effect. Serial entrepreneurs often ignore this, and they charge ahead with new ideas, racking up a series of failures for each victory. There’s nothing wrong with that, and some of the best successes come after a series of failures. But the best entrepreneurs temper their enthusiasm and innovative instincts with a wide-ranging research/thought process designed to tease out the unintended consequences and address them before they derail any new initiative. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it improves the odds.

Precasters are entrepreneurial by nature, and new opportunities often present themselves to those who are looking for them. In fact, while some precast businesses went stagnant during the recent Great Recession a few others prospered because they aggressively pursued new lines of business as old ones dried up. Not every new product line, value-added service or technological advance you incorporate will automatically turn into a money-making venture. But a clear-eyed analysis of the cause-effect-unintended consequence cycle may help your decision-making when planning future business ventures.


Ty Gable
President, National Precast Concrete Association


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