Mediocre People Focus on the Outcome. Exceptional People Focus On the Process

Slack: The Company That Almost Wasn’t

You may have heard of the workplace communication software, Slack. Many companies use Slack to virtually collaborate and communicate across teams. What most people don’t know is that Slack, despite its success, was never meant to exist.

In fact, the company who developed Slack actually had been hoping to create the next popular video game. But after raising millions of dollars to fund the game’s development, the company ultimately shut down the project because the game failed to attract enough users to be profitable.

The initial goal of the company — to create a successful video game — wasn’t achieved. However, during the process of creating their game, something else happened. The team realized that the chat system they created to accompany the game was worth investing more time in. While failing to build the next Minecraft, they managed to invent the chat system idea for one of the fastest-growing startups in history, and Slack was born.

Now, an outcome-focused person may simply have accepted the defeat of the failed video game and moved on to the next project, or worse, continued throwing money and resources at the intended outcome to their own detriment.

Fortunately, this company wasn’t outcome-focused. Instead, they had been paying attention to the process. Focusing on the process allowed this company to adapt and redefine their desired outcome when their initial venture failed. 

You’ve probably heard a quote or two in your life about the importance of “the journey” — how often the journey is more important and impactful than the destination. The company that developed Slack understood this principle, and by focusing on the process rather than the outcome, they were able to achieve greater success than they initially hoped for.

Outcome Vs. Process Mindset

Those who are outcome-driven typically believe that results are the most important part of a project or goal, whether it be personal or professional. 

So if an outcome-driven person wants to lose weight, the number on the scale would be the only thing they measure to see if they are making progress. 

Or if an outcome-driven person is in charge of meeting a particular sales goal, the final number at the end of the sales period is their number one priority. If that goal is not met, then they consider it a failure.

On the other hand, a process-driven person focuses more on the journey towards a particular outcome rather than the outcome itself. 

Instead of only looking at the numbers on the scale, a process-minded person who’s trying to lose weight may pay more attention to enjoying the healthy foods they’re eating or to putting in their best effort for each exercise. 

A process-oriented sales rep may take notice of how they’re running their sales calls and if there’s anything they can do differently or better that will result in a positive outcome.

Focusing more on the process allows space for improvement, growth, and better habits in the long run. 

Issues with Outcome-Focused Thinking

There are some key issues that come along with prioritizing the outcome over the process.

First, there is a limited view of what success and failure look like.

You either go down two pant sizes or you don’t. You either meet or exceed the sales goal or you don’t meet your target. 

Prioritizing the outcome means you either succeed or you fail. While prioritizing the process allows you to take note of what did and didn’t work along the way, regardless of what the final outcome ends up being. 

Famous inventor and businessman Thomas Edison said,

“Of the 200 light bulbs that didn’t work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt.”

Focusing on the process rather than the outcome can lead to continuous improvement rather than short-sighted disappointments.

Another issue with outcome-focused thinking is that it encourages an “at any cost” mentality, which can be detrimental and lead to unethical or unhealthy behaviors.

If your only priority is to lose weight, you may resort to crash diets and excessive physical activity — both of which can negatively affect your mental and physical health. 

An outcome-focused manager may be less concerned that their sales team is working 80 hours a week and skipping lunch. As long as they meet their sales goals, the way they do it isn’t of much importance.

Focusing so much on the outcome in this way can have long-term damaging effects. 

Similar to the “at any cost” mentality, an outcome-driven mindset creates tunnel vision.

If you’re so focused on the end result, you may miss important details, lessons, and experiences along the way.

If you’re spending all of your time trying to close a big account in order to meet your sales target, you may miss out on other business opportunities that are just as valuable, if not more. 

Or maybe you distance yourself from friends and family for the month because you’re so focused on meeting your goal.

Keeping Perspective

When you focus on the process rather than the outcome, you’re able to create a more sustainable journey towards the things you really want. 

While having goals and achieving results are of course valuable, the lessons we learn and experiences we have along the way often provide more life-long value than the intended outcome. Plus, if you can’t achieve your desired outcome in a way that aligns with your needs and values, a successful result may not feel as worthy of celebration.

So Why Should You Focus On The Process, Rather Than The Outcome?

A process-oriented mindset leads to a broader perspective of what success and failure look like.

Rather than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘win’ or ‘lose’ perspective, a process-oriented mindset helps you look at both accomplishments and mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve. 

So if you didn’t meet your goal weight, you can still appreciate that your mental health has improved since you started being more active. 

Or if you didn’t meet your sales goal this quarter, you can still celebrate learning a better way to work that contributes to a more successful outcome in the future.

You’re able to work toward your goals in a healthier, more sustainable way.

There’s no need to risk your own well-being or ethics in order to achieve an outcome. 

If you focus on the process rather than the outcome of weight loss, you may be more likely to consult a healthcare professional or nutritionist, create a more sustainable gym schedule, and make it a point to find healthy recipes that fill you up and make you feel good.

A process-oriented manager may say, “There has to be a better way to achieve the outcome we want without killing ourselves in the process.” 

Focusing on the process gives everyone involved an opportunity to innovate and expand their problem solving skills.

The way we do things matters, and if we want to continue finding success, it’s important to reflect on how you got there or why you didn’t.

It leads to deeper understanding and richer experiences.

Keeping an eye on the process gives you space to slow down and evaluate what you’re doing and if it’s really working. 

Perhaps this prospective company isn’t as ready to buy as you thought they would be and it’s time to reach out to another lead. 

Maybe spending a Saturday with loved ones helps you feel more rejuvenated when you head back into the office on Monday, leading to a more productive work week.

It’s not our trophies or first place medals that make us who we are, it’s the experiences we have and the lessons we learn along the way. Those are what contribute to our future successes.

Final Thoughts

So, the next time you’re working towards a particular outcome, take a closer look at how you plan to get there. Focus on staying in the moment. Enjoy the process. Who knows, you might just accidentally invent a multi-billion dollar company without even trying. 


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