Solving Problems II: The Dandelion Versus The Burning Building
Yesterday I wrote about an alternative model for solving problems to the prevalent model that you need to find and solve their root causes to be effective. The alternative — the burning building model to solving problems — says that if you can think of something that will improve the situation, acting on it will help.
If you’ve used the dandelion model for a long time, you may believe it strongly. You may be skeptical of the burning building model. What if you act and don’t solve the problem? Couldn’t you make it worse? Won’t it just come back later?
Every problem is unique so you have to figure out what models apply best, but if you’re used to the dandelion model, you’d be surprised how effective the burning building model is.
Two things usually happen when you act on the burning building model that reveal how unnecessary the analysis the dandelion model suggests is.
The first is that after you solve a problem, you tend to find the cause irrelevant. Once you solve the problem, you are a different person — a person without that problem — and the cause doesn’t apply as much to this person.
To illustrate, if you find yourself in a burning building you may want to figure out how the fire started. While in the building burning you might think that before leaving the building your should find evidence to help prevent future fires. It sounds reasonable, right?
The thing is, after you leave the building, you tend to go on with your life. Now you might be concerned about preventing potential future fires. That’s where the second effect comes in, complementing the first.
The second effect is that once the stress of the problem is gone, the causes tend to be more obvious. In the fire analog, when you leave the building, you often can tell better. Some information may have been lost, but you aren’t in a burning building so you can look more calmly and some information is more clear, like generally where the fire started.
In a life example, if you want to lose weight, sometimes your stress over the weight — what people think of you, if you should try to lose it or not, how you look in a bathing suit, etc — gets in the way of your observing yourself disinterestedly. Whereas getting more fit relieves that stress allowing to to observe calmly and with hindsight. Often a cause that eluded you under stress becomes glaringly obvious in calm hindsight.
By the first effect, once you’re fit, you might not care why you weren’t before. By the second, you’ll probably figure it out faster afterward anyway.
In summary, the burning building model tends to overcome the would-be challenges a believer in the dandelion model would have expected (as we see, generally incorrectly).
Applying the burning building model tends to make causes
- Irrelevant, improving your life
- Clear, making you resilient from falling back into them
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