Not all super-outcomes are equal

super-outcome is thematic if you can't tell that it actually happened. "A life-well lived," for example, is a reasonable and motivational outcome, but one that's not design-friendly because:

  • You can't pinpoint the moment it comes about.
  • You can never measure how far away you are from it or how much more you need to do to make it happen.

There is no situational characteristic to which you can point to as evidence of having successfully lived a good life. Thematic outcomes are also very difficult to design a path to. Consider another typical thematic outcome: "Our invoicing software gets you paid faster."

There's a lot that goes into having an invoice get paid. You have to create the account with the invoicing software, you got to create the invoice, you've got to enter in the client's details, you got to enter the invoices details. You got to send it to the client. The client has to see it. The client has to decide to pay it. The client has to actually pay it. The person has to receive money. How much of this path can an invoicing app actually own?

The more thematic the super-outcome you promise users, the less you can actually control making it happen.

A super-outcome is practical if:

  • You can measure if it has happened.
  • You can formulate a theory of sequential changes that lead to it.
  • You can measure how many of those sequential changes have happened or need to happen in order for it to come about.

When selecting super-outcomes, the idea is to lean more towards "practical" than "thematic."