center. Then the experimenters did something that, on the face of it, didn’t make awhole lot of sense. As seniors, the students were, of course, familiar with thecampus and already knew where the health center was located. But, when theresearchers gave the pamphlet and included a campus map with the universityhealth building circled, inoculation rates jumped to 28%. As information, the mapwas unnecessary, but it proved useful because it triggered the kind of concretethinking that leads to action.
If we’re so smart
Outcomes, even those as elementary as a clean room or a tetanus inoculation, areinherently—and rather sneakily—abstract. Consider, for a moment, some of themore involved outcomes we might want to bring about in our lives: finalize,implement, research, publish, distribute, maximize, learn, set up, organize, create,design, install, repair, submit, handle, resolve—we all face these types of to-do’s.Some are big, some small; some pleasant, some not-so-pleasant. But what thesedesired outcomes all have in common is their abstractness. This is because anoutcome, like a goal, is not something you actually do; it is something you achieveafter doing many action steps.For years productivity expert David Allen has trained clients to get to the “runway-level” of life: action. If there’s a desired outcome, he coaches, then ask thequestion, “What’s the next action?” He has spent hours with executives trainingthem to think about the specific, physical next actions they need to take in order tomove each of their projects forward. Allen himself wonders at the effectiveness of this approach. After all, he works with some of the most brilliant and successfulpeople in business. Yet next-action thinking produces results that are immediateand profound.