Co-benefit is a term broadly used in the Climate Change movement to explain the unintended/extended consequences of actions beyond an original target. For example, the Wikipedia entry on ‘Co-benefits of climate change mitigation reads:
Examples of such climate mitigation policies include improved energy efficiency of plants, renewable energy uptake and fuel switching which might enable a range of co-benefits such as air-pollution impacts, technological innovation, energy-supply security through increased energy diversity, reduced fuel cost and employment possibilities.
In my organizational change world we talk a lot about unintended-extended consequences that are together bigger in impact than the intended ones. For example, a successful organizational change programme may produce intense pride in employees who feel honoured or privileged to work in that place. Pride may attract interest outside and facilitate recruitment. Retention may increase. Overall satisfaction rate as well. Neither pride, recruitment, retention or satisfaction, per se, may have ever been featured in the original goals of the programme.
This is a very typical situation in our Viral Change™ programmes in which often strong spontaneous collaboration on a peer-to-peer level may emerge as a strong visible winner even if ‘collaboration’ per se may not have been targeted.
These co-benefits or unintended/extended consequences are hard to predict and, although we know of them from experience, they are usually not a hard currency in the original discussions before the programme starts. ROI junkies do not like unpredictable.
But there are always (bound to be) co-benefits from different angles of one programme, and similarly, there are (bound to be) co-benefits from several programmes running in parallel.
The positive outcomes of a, say, quality programme, leadership programme and culture change programme, may be less than the combined co-benefits. But for these combined co-benefits to be grasped, we need to things:
A VP of bridging (just kidding, somebody really, genuinely interested in the brokerage) and a willingness to let yourself be surprised by emergent and unpredictable good things that do not fit well in any particular basket.
To me, leadership is about providing the space for all these initiatives to thrive and, at the same time, cross fertilize them without trying to amalgamate them. A VP of bridging may be OK… But a VP of colonizing is a bad idea.