Symptoms vs. Systems

Many of our systems reward short-term wins at the expense of long-term solutions. To solve our challenges, we need to take the time to think deeply, critically and honestly about the systems we hope to change. Some call the approach the “root cause.” “Root cause” makes the solution sound singular, while in reality, our solutions exist in a dynamic realm, where systems are constantly evolving. While this term is helpful, it does not tell the entire story. Systems, be they biological, governmental or technological, reward certain behaviors. With ill-conceived incentives, humans act accordingly, and soon unintended outcomes abound. Let’s take, for example, the issue of immigration

Do people immigrate to America illegally because we have a porous border? If so, maybe a wall is not such a bad idea. Unfortunately, people do not immigrate to America, or any country because borders are porous. They do so for a myriad of systemic challenges they face in their country. The challenges migrants are escaping are rooted in the economics of their homeland, their ability to exercise their individuality and other insidious socio-political-cultural forces. People don’t cross borders because they can, they do so to survive.

The immigration debate, like many others, continues to devise solutions focused on the symptoms, not the systemic causes. As an example, the systemic response to America’s “immigration crisis” would address our drug use that is fueling the gang wars south of the border, and the geopolitical trade deals that inhibit these countries formal economies from flourishing. If young people in these socially and economically strained countries knew that they could provide for their families without risking their lives, and those of their loved ones, they surely would.

If we are to solve the challenges we face, we need systemic solutions. Systemic solutions are hard to identify and implement, given the systems we rely upon (e.g. insurance, government) are well established and entrenched, lacking any incentive to change. Creating new systems is needed to solve the persistent challenges we face.

This is what Piers Ridyard is addressing by creating a platform where social innovators can build new systems to support the up and coming leaders in building and implementing solutions that address our challenges at the systemic level. I recently sat down with Piers to learn more about how he is creating systems to better align stakeholder incentives to solve systemic problems.

Listen to our conversation!

We are well aware of the challenges we face as a global community, as a nation and individuals, yet we continually attempt solve our persistent problems at the wrong level. Our interventions are skin deep, while the disease metastasizes beneath the surface. This approach of solving symptoms serves only as a failed series of mitigations.

We have been mitigating for far too long - it is time to address the fractures in our systems. We can only do this by being inviting all stakeholders to the table, and working diligently, together, to address the gaps that exist between you, me and our desired, shared future.