The results fallacy: Why focusing on outcomes is counterproductive

Business performance lessons from elite sports.

by Catherine Bishop

‘It’s all about results!’ ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!’ ‘Don’t be a loser!’  These phrases resound throughout our lives from the playground to the boardroom. The logic is alluringly simple, reinforced by parents, teachers and then managers, that life essentially revolves around the results we achieve. 

But this laser-like focus on results needs challenging.  It’s holding us back in business as it is in sport, education and politics. Experience and an increasing body of research in psychology and organisational studies show serious flaws in this way of thinking. Our obsession with outcomes is leading to serious unforeseen consequences, not to mention poor results.  

When we assess, evaluate and judge according to results we lose out on the opportunity to learn. When I was competing internationally, within every race I lost, there were world-class elements to my performance, as well as areas that needed serious improvement.  

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