Why you can’t have what you want (in life and in business)

You can’t have what you want because what you want can’t be had.

And the reason why you don’t understand what can’t be had (and what can) is because you don’t understand systems thinking.

Let’s consider this on a personal level first, and then apply to business.

  • You can’t ‘faith’ but you can ‘believe’.
  • You can’t ‘happiness’ but you can ‘appreciate the moment’
  •  You can’t ‘wisdom’ but you can ‘choose wisely’
  •  You can’t ‘winner’ but you can ‘try hard’

But let’s start at the beginning.

In the world of systems thinking, it is a matter of first principles to identify Inputs à Processes à Outputs as a matter of course in every facet of life. A common mistake non-systems thinkers make is not confuse the outcome with the process and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to change an outcome instead of focussing on the inputs/processes that will deliver the outcome.

If you bake a cake that tastes like a turd, no amount of icing sugar will change it. Fix the ingredients or the process to produce a cake the way it should taste. Right?

(I have told you in 2007 that you should understand systems thinking. In fact, if you go to ganador.com.au, you will see an example of systems thinking on the home page.)

We constantly fail to identify something as an outcome and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix it.

If you want (e.g.) HAPPINESS, realise that it is something that in of itself it cannot be ‘had’ directly. You have to do something else in order to achieve happiness. (Learning to appreciate the moment is one avenue to happiness. It is one of the processes that will lead to happiness.)

Systems Thinking explains how the world works and consequently that it is futile to focus on the outcomes, but rather to focus on the back-end inputs and processes that will produce those outcomes.

In business we are conditioned to ‘watch the scoreboard’. Of course it is important to have metrics, but it is about picking the right metrics too. The purpose of metrics is to guide us towards the decisions we must take and the things we must do.

Customer Satisfaction, Profit and Sales are examples of useless metrics. (Okay, maybe less useful.)

These are examples of OUTPUTS. They are the equivalent of the cake that tastes of turd. Nothing you can do about these variables.

It is beyond the scope of a simple blog post to change your philosophical perspective on business, but if you do embrace systems thinking, you will appreciate that measures of productivity are more effective measurements because it measures OUTPUTS relative INPUTS. E.g. Sales per Employee is more useful than simply measuring sales. Likewise, the Average Sale is more useful than sales for the same reason.

You can’t HAVE more SALES but you can have staff SELLING more and if you measure that, which is what will cause more sales to happen.

By focussing on the inputs (staff/skills) and the processes (selling/.service) you produce those outcomes that you really want.

Keep your eye on the ball, not on the scoreboard.