Systems Thinking

When we solve the same problem over and over; in which we see some  temporary relief, but after an honest view see the same problem recurring over and over again. This situation is quite often the result of a Shifting the Burden structure.  These structures are natural laws that are present in all natural systems to include behavior, education, business, and government. 

“Shifting the Burden” results in solutions that only exacerbate the underlying problem over time and leave the overall system less able to solve the real problem.  When we focus on a symptomatic, quick-fix, short-term solution rather than addressing the root cause we are “Shifting the Burden” from the fundamental solution.

Solutions to problem systems are attractive to us because of our need for quick gratification and often they are a crisis or an apparent crisis that demands attention. Symptomatic solutions or short-term responses are easy and generally acceptable whereas long-term approaches are harder to sell and harder to sustain until they take effect. Short-term solutions provide us with quick shot of improvement that are not sustained, where fundamental solutions provide improvements which take more times but are sustained naturally.  The draw towards a symptomatic solution is easy to fall into because it’s usually quicker and cheaper in the short-term.  Therefore these solutions become very attractive for those trying to improve a quarterly or annual report, or seeking reelection.

Solving problems for the symptom of a problem nearly always lead to unintentional consequences.  Often these consequences are in the form of dependencies and/or addictions and leave the system less able to deal with the underlying problem.

Not having a vision or goal may also lead to short-term reactions to relieve pressure.  It is easy to become dependent on short-term solutions.  It is also easy to become addicted to short-term solutions because of a lack of toleration of delays. The constant use of quick fixes erodes capability to think and act for the longer term.

Finding the underlying cause and solving for that is the best way to solve a problem.  However, not only does this take more effort, but often the underlying cause is difficult or extraordinarily difficult to identify.