Have you ever considered a problem and said something like, “It’s just too messy a problem. It can’t be solved!”?
Two current political problems inspire these kinds of responses. They are medical coverage and our educational system. These problems are deemed so complex that everyone just throws their hands up in despair. And the next response is to hurriedly insure that their position under the system is kept unchanged.
These problems have two big items in common. The first is we don’t have an agreed upon defined outcome and the second is we have assumptions that are unquestioned. We’ve discussed the first in an earlier posts. Le’ts discuss the second.
Most complex problems make assumptions that are unquestioned. We want to change just one or two things and leave everything else unchanged. In the case of medical coverage we assume 1) doctors will continue to be paid as much as before 2) insurance companies will run the system and still make money 3) investment in medical development will continue and the cost is passed along to consumers 4) everyone can sue everyone in the system with no constraints 5) medical practice is still a monopoly 6) Alternative practices are always second class citizens 7) Everyone can push the system to the limits 8) Only state systems ; no national system allowed.
The result is a system that is intrinsically bankrupt and has pushed middle class families into not having coverage.
These assumptions make the system problem look complex and impossible to solve. Trust me; if engineering companies approached problems this way we’d still be driving horse and wagons.
To solve problems you have to be willing to challenge your assumptions. And all assumptions have to be looked at. You have to ask at the beginning, “What do we we need to solve this problem?”
The Chinese did this during the Cultural Revolution. Mao had broken the medical system by sending so many MD’s to the farms for re-education. They solved their problem by drafting Qi Gong families to help treat the first level of sickness. It seemed to work although not perfectly.
Alexander the Great came upon the Gordian Knot before he entered Asia. The folklore was that you had to untie the knot before you could conquer Asia. No one had ever succeeded. Note the assumption; you have to untie the knot. Alexander looked at the knot, discarded the assumption, drew his sword and cut the knot in two. He then went on to conquer Asia.
So look at your own life and the problems you have today. Write down the assumptions you have for possible solutions. Challenge yourself to change some of the assumptions and see if you get better solutions.