Why Problems Aren’t Solved.

thoreau_lock_and_keyAs a member of the Board for what could best be explained as a condo community, I find myself shaking my head quite a bit. One of the reasons I do so is because, simply put, people become more emotionally attached to a problem than a solution. One such example was an issue of a missing key. But the issue wasn’t the missing key. The issue was getting to what the key gave access to: The garbage room.

There’s a story behind that, as there usually is, but at this point in time there’s actually little good reason for the garbage room to be locked. At one time, there was some rationale, but that rationale has been found wanting as other things have changed. I had predicted this prior to coming on the Board, communicated it with the Director who pushed it (who is now no longer on the Board), and so I waited over the course of a week as this can got kicked around in community chats.

The conversation centered around the key. The key became this Holy Grail of sorts, and everyone wanted to blame someone for the issue regarding the key (it is lost to the entropy of bureaucracy, suffice to say). After a week, I finally sounded off because the time it was taking for people to sort out the problem had exceeded my patience.

“We don’t need the locks on the garbage rooms anymore.”

The underlying issue was that people couldn’t access the garbage room for bags that were larger than the chute. Everyone wanted to play the blame game about the key, and meanwhile, the garbage room was still inaccessible. And this set me to thinking because when large groups of fairly intelligent people disappoint in their capacity to solve a simple problem, it’s time to think.

The Solving Of Problems

There is a tendency to get caught up in minutiae, trying to solve a smaller problem with an assumption that solving the smaller problem will somehow continue solving a larger problem. In the above example, it was a simple matter of switching perspectives, a flexibility in viewpoint to be circumspect. Generally speaking, education systems, perhaps because of the amount of time to shove a few thousand years of knowledge into less than 20 years, doesn’t deal with this well.

Let’s be honest, too – the present techno-communication landscape of social media is more suited for allowing for cognitive bias: Social media sites, in their wish to get our eyes on their advertising, show us what we agree with rather than well rounded opinions. It’s all an echo chamber and makes looking for valuable dissent (as opposed to popular dissent) all the less likely to be found.

If we are only presented that which we agree with, how are we to move forward? If a solution is chosen because of popularity on social media, how valuable is that solution? And do all these people with opinions have knowledge on the topic or add value somehow, or are they simply looking for views on their website, just as without social media sometimes people add their opinions to look smart even when their opinion demonstrates that they are not?

It seems to me – and we all have biases on this – that the world is getting better at communicating solutions that are popular, but not right – and therein, we find the core problem, and the solution is… well, I’m sure I don’t know.

We Shouldn’t Start Those Fires

Russia: Fire in Michurinskoye - IMG_8223-1 - a close cropThe world is easier to deal with if it’s not on fire.

Unless you’re used to dealing with fires. Then it becomes uncomfortable to deal with things not on fire.

My world has been on fire for a long time. I’ve gotten past feeling uncomfortable in the calms. It’s good.

And yet I find there are so many people running around with matches and kerosene, creating fires that could be so easily avoided if they simply thought rather than… didn’t.

Things don’t have to be difficult. The world does not have to burn. We don’t have to create our own problems. We don’t have to fight fires if we stop starting them.

Isn’t it enough that we’re already putting out the fires that our forebears started?

Forest and Trees

why hello thereShifting focus is a necessary part of being human – to be able to see the forest and the tree in the forest as needed. Deciding when to do that is a sign of education, discipline and experience. It’s also something that truly creative people can do easily.

Some people see forests, some people see trees, few people see both. Few people can understand a singular tree, how it works even in the most basic of principles – photosynthesis is a rote answer, misunderstood, osmosis is a concept that only can be learned through a permeable membrane. Nutrients, soil types, root types… all are lost if they are not found, and so a person can be limited only to the patently obvious, the growth above the ground.

And then people will look at a forest, not understanding the complex interactions with the pollination vectors, the mycorrhizal networks,  the air flow and the concentrations of different gases during parts of the day when photosynthesis takes place – and when it doesn’t. How the shape of leaves can affect not just how much photosynthesis happens but how water flows through the forest before it even hits the ground. How just as cattle have the cattle egret to keep them clean, there are creatures that keep the plants safe – and then there are creatures that do not, little microcosms of life and death happening at any given moment, an awkward balance shifting in real time. A cycle. Alive in it’s own right, a body of systems, perhaps even a consciousness of sorts that we cannot understand. Religion and fiction have played with this subject.

So, when we look at a problem, we have to understand the tree – each tree. And we also have to understand the forest, the complex interactions between trees and the other flora and fauna around them.

To often we have specialists that do only one or the other; we need people who can do both.