“Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one feels thirsty or forging weapons after the war has already begun.” – Nei Jing
Is order the ultimate principle of wisdom? Is order better or is it just easier? Is what we see the whole story? Order is another way of saying keep things as they are. Of course curing a disease after it is experienced is like digging a well after feeling thirsty or building weapons after the war has begun. Is that the best we can do, just maintain order? Should we attempt to cure it before? (which would be prevention), how would we know if worked if what was prevented never happened? If prevention works, nothing happens – we can do better.
We can do better than just maintain the status quo. Anything that attempts to keep things as they are is impeding progress. Beyond efforts to prevent problems, evidence from Dr. Wilde’s Risk Homeostasis Theory indicate we never actually prevent problems, they are just moved.
Additional information in “FoolProof” suggests not only don’t prevention efforts work because they just move risk and problems, but these these well-intentioned efforts actually create a backlash with unintended problems. One example of many is when well-intentioned people in the NFL created helmets to prevent head, teeth and eye injuries. While many of those injuries subsided, without accounting for delayed head trauma, other injuries increased. Injuries were moved. Other injuries such as those to the neck and spine increased because a helmet protected head helped players feel safe enough to use their head when tackling (see video).
Of course the hidden problem of CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encepholapthy famously discussed in the movie “Concussion” with Will Smith is another example of a backlash from attempts to improve safety.
A different approach is possible, one that looks forward toward what is being created instead of backward in an attempt to avoid or prevent. Instead of just trying to make it less bad, we should focus on how to create more good (see), from a systems perspective. This approach about a better future has many benefits and is what Dr. Wilde calls expectationism. He also explains why this approach would be more effective as it also improves overall well-being.
After all, the focus on the future is what has helped us realize all progress. Figure what you want, clarify that picture – determine that idealized outcome, determine what will demonstrate progress, not outcome measures, then work at creating it. As you continually measure progress, you will understand how to correct and improve the path of creating that idealized outcome. Don’t be frustrated if you get off path, they say the rocket to the moon was off course 96% of the time but with continued process improvements, the desired outcome was achieved.
Remember the desired idealized outcome should be measurable so you will know something was accomplished. Nassim Taleb described in his 2008 book the Black Swan an instance when a rider enters a taxi cab and tells the driver, “Don’t take me to the airport.” Of course this leaves the driver confused because he doesn’t know what to do or how to act because not going to the airpot is not measurable. It is simply a nonevent. Determine a measurable outcome so you can document and measure what you achieve!
Build on the idea of expectationism by creating more good, not just less bad (also see here, here, here, here). Efforts to decrease undesirable effects don’t work. Rather than just maintain order, lets make it better by focusing on and work on creating what is desired and what could be.
I look forward to hearing about the progress you create.
2 thoughts on “Beyond Order and Status Quo”