Advertising
Advertising

Simple Is Good, but Simplifying the Cause of a Problem Is Bad

Simple Is Good, but Simplifying the Cause of a Problem Is Bad

Have you ever noticed we typically attempt to solve problems without fully understanding them? We develop a solution before we actually understand what we are looking at. We never actually solve the problem when this occurs.

We fall into a trap when we overlook problems. Have you ever had an uncomfortable feeling when you just knew what you were doing conflicts with what you know you should be doing? This is called cognitive dissonance and we have all had this feeling. Yet, cognitive dissonance can be a powerful motivator for changing your behavior. Think of the need for exercise. People will find all kinds of excuses to explain away their unhealthy habit of not exercising. Yet, they know they should be doing it. At some point, this uncomfortable feeling may assist them in changing their behavior, but they need a method to help them change.

Developing an Alternative Future

    We must strive to fix problems by analyzing potential causes. This brings to mind a quote from Helen Keller as often times we fail to see what is right in front of us.

    “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

    One such method we can use to assist us is a futures research method focusing on in-depth analysis of current problems called Causal Layer Analysis (CLA). CLA was developed by Sohail Inayatullah and provides us a way to develop alternative futures. [1] So, what exactly is CLA and how can we use it? To answer this, let’s look at how we can use it to move past assumptions and biases in developing alternative futures for a problem.

    How Causal Layer Analysis Makes the Invisible Visible

    CLA possesses 4 dimensions; where dimensions 1 and 2 are the most visible and dimensions 3 and 4 are deeper (less visible).[2]

    Four Dimensions of CLA

    1. The Litany (day-to-day) future where solutions to problems are typically short term.
    2. Systemic Causes focused on social, economic, and political issues.
    3. The Worldview or the big picture paradigm informing what we think our reality is.
    4. The Myth or Metaphor where the deep unconscious story resides.

    Advertising

      Let’s take a look at how each dimension is framed, questions to ask for each, and an example of each. [3]

      Dimension 1: Litany

      Here we are defining the problem. This is our unquestioned view of reality. For example, I am a former foster child and active in research to improve the current state of the foster care system. Think of our earlier discussion on cognitive dissonance. Whenever the deep issues in foster care are discussed, people tend to shut down and fail to engage in conversation. Instead, they view the conversation as an attack. They know there has to be a better way (and that the system is failing), yet they stick with the model they are comfortable with.

      Questions to ask in this dimension:

      • What is the issue?
      • How is the issue being reported in the media?
      • What are the known facts?
      • What is widely believed and not questioned?

      Litany example: The foster care system is surrounded with a ‘litany’ of problems. The insane reality of the foster care system can be summed up through these 5 key points:[4]

      • Often times you are stuck in a bad situation (either with your biological family or in foster care). If you fail to “win the lottery” and get adopted by a good family, you could be stuck in a horrific life.
      • Foster parents and the foster care system “may not” (notice how I said “may not”) have a childs best interest in mind.
      • A child can be surrounded and literally changed by bad influences.
      • Kids often disappear into the foster care system. Essentially, they are a life discarded.
      • Children get stuck in a viscous cycle of failure.

      Dimension 2: Systemic Causes

      Here we are looking at the systemic analysis and conducting an audit of the causes to the problem.

      Systemic Causes example: The Kansas foster care system is privatized. Yet, the system is in a state of crisis as more and more children are entering the foster care system. The current solution is to spend more; however, there is a strong positive correlation between spending more and the increased number of children entering foster care. This could be due to the fact that the contract ceases payment to contractors once a child leaves the foster care system. [5] Furthermore, the more children ente ring the system creates a need for more foster parents, for which there is already a shortage.

      Questions to ask in this dimension:

      • What factors are influencing the issue?
      • Who is involved?
      • What are the underlying causes?

      Let’s look at a tool we can use to help us in this dimension.

      Advertising

      The Futures Wheel

      The futures wheel can assist us in anticipating future issues. This also helps us create new possibilities by seeing the world from an unconnected to a complex connected reality. [6]

      Continuing with our foster care example, let’s look at the current problem and see what the future looks like if we fail to change. Let’s look at the consequences and what is causing the Litany to appear on the “surface” in its current form. Here’s an example of the futures wheel:[7]

        Dimension 3: Worldview

        The Worldview is creating the present reality. Here we are looking at the current paradigms, cultures, and values. This includes the hidden societal values and structures that remain unquestioned. In this deeper layer, we are also looking at the values behind the ‘powers’ or influencers that perpetuate the litany. [8]

        Questions to ask in this dimension:

        • What are the hidden assumptions?
        • Who are the stakeholders?
        • Who has the majority of control over the issue?
        • What are the dominant views and ideologies of the ‘powers’ for this issue?

        Worldview example: There are a large number of stakeholders in the foster care system and they all have different views and ideologies. However, it is apparent that the current foster care paradigm needs shattered. We all recognize the foster care system is failing, yet, the current Worldview is we assume people will always do what is in the best interest of a child.

        Dimension 4: Myth or Metaphor

        Moving to the deepest layer of CLA is the Myth or Metaphor dimension. Here we are looking at the images that come to mind when we think of an issue and the gut or emotional responses the issue evokes.

        Questions to ask in this dimension: 1) What encapsulates the feelings in which this Worldview is grounded? 2) What myths or folk stories come to mind? 3) What metaphors come to mind?

        Advertising

        Myth or Metaphor example:

        • The Allegory of the Cave presented by Greek philosopher Plato is a perfect comparison to the world of a foster child. This example would take up an entire article in itself. I recommend the following video if you are interested in learning more on this topic: The Cave
        • A child in foster care is like a stray puzzle piece. [9]
        • Foster care is like never-ending rain that turns a river into a raging torrent, sweeping away everything in its path.

        So, what should we do now?

        Create alternative futures with the end in mind

        After you complete your CLA, the next thing you must do is choose a different myth, metaphor, or narrative and create new (alternative) futures moving back up through the same dimensions. Flip the current system or paradigm on its head! Let’s stick with the river metaphor and create a new reality for foster children.

        Foster care is like a never-ending rain that turns a river into a raging torrent, sweeping away everything in its path. Let’s imagine what would happen if a foster child broke the cycle of failure… what if the rain stopped? When the rain finally stops and the flood subsides, the old growth has gone and there’s new fertile land waiting to be farmed.[10]

        To help us imagine this, let’s use a powerful tool called Backcasting.

        Move Backwards From Your Vision to the Present

        Backcasting is a navigational tool we can use to solve difficult or “Wicked” problems. With Backcasting, we start with the end in mind, where multiple paths exist. Another way to think of it is to think of scouting ahead. Let’s see what it looks like and walk through an example. [11]

          Steps in Backcasting

          Step #1: Set the timeframe.

          Advertising

          Step #2: List how the problem is currently functioning by using your current CLA.

          Step #3: Define possible future states, for which I identified three. Complete a Future Wheel for each of these alternative future states.

          Step #4: Work backwards identifying actions and indicators.

          Step #5: Assess risks and opportunities.

          Backcasting is an extremely powerful tool as we can begin with the desired end state and work backwards uncovering (previously) hidden strategies to produce phenomenal transformation. It’s amazing the potential that exists if we would use these powerful approaches. CLA, Future Wheels, and Backcasting provide us an opportunity to radically improve any problem placed in front of us.

            When developing a solution to a problem, we cannot simply look at a single cause and effect relationship. This is not nearly dynamic enough. If we do this, we will overlook a problem. So, we must learn to find a problems blindspot. Lastly, I am reminded of a famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche,

            “When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”

            Reference

            [1] Libarynth.org: Causal Layered Analysis
            [2] Sohail Inayatullah: Six pillars futures thinking for transformation
            [3] Libarynth.org: Causal Layered Analysis
            [4] Cracked.com: 5 insane realities inside the foster care system
            [5] Medium.com: Profiting from foster care
            [6] Sohail Inayatullah: Six pillars futures thinking for transformation
            [7] Emergent by Design: Futures Wheel
            [8] Sohail Inayatullah: Six pillars futures thinking for transformation
            [9] Prezi.com: The dark side of foster care
            [10] Quora.com: Tom Southern
            [11] Slideshare.net: Backcasting 101

            More by this author

            Dr. Jamie Schwandt

            Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

            5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain 10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

            Trending in Productivity

            1 10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful 2 What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It 3 How to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success 4 Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus 5 Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

            Read Next

            Advertising
            Advertising
            Advertising

            Last Updated on January 24, 2020

            10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

            10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

            Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

            Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

            Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

            • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
            • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
            • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

            Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

            Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

            Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

            That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

            1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

            I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

            Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

            Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

            Advertising

            2. Be Grateful for What You Have

            Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

            Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,[1]

            “I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

            3. Smile

            Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

            Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.[2]

            Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

            Can you smile again?

            4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

            Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[3]

            If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

            This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

            Advertising

            Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

            5. Exercise Daily

            One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

            Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[4] He said,

            ‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

            He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

            6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

            Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

            Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

            So how do you manage your time effectively?

            Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

            “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

            And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:[5]

            • Monday – Management
            • Tuesdays – Product
            • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
            • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
            • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
            • Saturdays – Taking off
            • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

            No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

            7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

            Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

            Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

            Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

            “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

            Be intentional about your daily goals!

            8. Seek Inspiration

            It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

            A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

            Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

            Advertising

            Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,[7]

            “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

            9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

            I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

            However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

            10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

            Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

            “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

            It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

            Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

            The Bottom Line

            Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

            More About Habits

            Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

            Advertising

            Reference

            Read Next