There’s an expression one hears in sports sometimes that a final score is a good result. It doesn’t pertain to your team winning (which I guess is always a good result). Instead, it means that the outcome of the match is in line with the way the game was played. The team that dominated the game won even if it was a sloppy match or something unusual like an own goal kept it closer than it should have been. Ugly play didn’t get in the way of the outcome. You hear the expression in boxing too. It means that there was no lucky one-punch knockout or the fight was stopped by a cut on the person who was winning. The “right” guy won.
I had the same thought when the whole controversy about Jordyn Wieber happened during the Olympics. Even though she finished fourth during the qualifying round she couldn’t compete for the all-around gymnastics gold because international rules only allow two competitors per country in the finals. This was seen as a bad result – she played well and yet she wasn’t allowed to continue (one could ask why no one complained about the rules in advance of the Games when the US had such a deep squad but hindsight is always perfect…).
Maybe it’s the notion of fairness that’s inherent in thinking something is a good result. That’s certainly part of it but I think it’s a bit of a misplaced focus too. There’s a golf expression – “it’s not how, it’s how many.” That means it doesn’t matter if you hit a soaring perfect shot to 3 feet or if you skull it along the ground to the same place. All that matters is the final score. As Bobby Orr said, forget about style; worry about results. Here’s the thing: business outcomes often aren’t fair. Idiot self-promoters get great jobs and smart, quiet people languish. There’s a lot of focus in business on style, on “how” instead of “how many.” Are those a “good result?”
We might ask ourselves how many good people or excellent opportunities are we overlooking because they don’t fit into our idea of perfect. Winning ugly is still winning, right?