Results by John Austin, PhD

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4 Ways Focusing on INTENTION Can Lead You Astray

In April of 2006, Paramount Pictures partnered with the Los Angeles Times to promote the upcoming film Mission Impossible: III.

To raise interest in the mission impossible theme, they intended to turn the ordinary task of getting a morning paper into an exciting mission for residents.

The idea was to put a small music player inside 4,500 newspaper boxes. When they were opened, they would play the Mission Impossible theme song.

However, the intentions of the promotion backfired.

Many people saw the box the music player came in, thought they were explosives, and called the police to report it.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Los Angeles was evacuated for 90 minutes as a precaution. The LA County Sheriff’s Department arson squad blew up a Times news rack in Santa Clarita after seeing wires connected to a Mission Impossible: III music box.  Several agencies were sued and paid $75,000 in damages.

Intention is different from Impact.

We see this happen in organizations all the time.

  • Initiatives created by a team in an office somewhere seem like a great idea until they are applied. (See my 8-minute talk on why initiatives fail)
  • A leader delivers feedback that is intended to improve performance but instead is received as harsh and personal and reduces the person’s confidence. (See Dr. Nicole Gravina’s 2-minute talk on feedback)
  • Intending to create more accountability, people are put on the spot or criticized in front of their peers, and this damages the relationship between manager and staff member, creating a palpable nervousness and anxiety that leads to sleepless nights.
  • An incentive system is created to improve results, but instead, it leads to lots of activity to make it appear that something important is happening.

We learn from behavioral science that we want to look at the impact or outcomes of our efforts. It doesn’t matter that your intentions were good if they didn’t have the desired impact.

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