Unintended Consequences, More Work For Mother, And Thinking Things Through

from the worth-thinking-about dept

One of the common themes around here is how rarely many industries think through the unintended consequences of their strategic decisions. If they were chess players, they’d be thinking only one (or possibly two) moves out, which is short-sighted enough, but even worse is that they’re forgetting that the other side moves as well. It’s an important thing to remember — but it’s easy to forget, thinking that everything else in the world remains the same, even after you do something. It’s why the music industry celebrated after they shut down Napster, even though it really just meant that file sharing became bigger as it moved further underground (and, they’re still making that mistake today, as they celebrate the death of Grokster and others). It’s why a badly thought out anti-spam laws can make spam more of a problem and it’s why a misused patent system can do more harm to innovation than help it.

A few days ago, we wrote about some of the unintended consequences of the DVR, getting plenty of people to watch more TV, and perhaps keeping the concept of the commercial alive — despite fears from broadcasters of things going the other way. Over at the Future Now blog, they’re discussing that story by putting it into context by trying to explain how the unintended consequences of technology very often lead to the opposite results from what you would think if you forget that the rest of the world reacts. The post discusses the book, More Work for Mother, which sounds like a perfect example of such unintended consequences. Over the past century there have been a number of innovations in the home when it comes to technology and appliances — all of which were designed and advertised as “time saving.” Yet, in many cases, just as much time is being spent on housework (and, yes, too often it’s chauvinistically the woman who is doing most of that housework). As Future Now notes: “The big lesson is, to understand technologies, you’ve got to pay attention to how technologies fit into people’s lives, and how they affect patterns of behavior — not just what they’re intended to do.” It’s all about understanding several moves out — on all sides of the game, rather than just assuming that the rest of the world stands still.

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Comments on “Unintended Consequences, More Work For Mother, And Thinking Things Through”

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Mike (profile) says:

Re: Bad link?

Yeah it appears that the Future Now blog isn’t working right now. I can’t even get to the front page. As for not reading th earticle because the title seems outdated, um, that seems a little short sighted too. It’s a *historical* look at how things changed from 1860 to 1960. You can learn a lot from history.

Do you not read books about slavery because they’re outdated?

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