For us to create a better world, we have to ask the right questions. If we don’t ask the right questions, it is impossible to get the right answer. Asking the wrong questions means no matter how hard we work at getting the answers, we still won’t get what we want because we asked the wrong question.
Of course, if we are asking the wrong questions, the data we collect to answer the question will be wrong. Working with the wrong data leads to improperly informed data based decisions. We then waste effort, no matter how hard or how diligently we work. As practice continues to illustrate, Dr. W. Edwards Deming forsaw future problems from the existing methods. With regard to this situation, he would say,
It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.
We can’t do good work if we don’t answer appropriate questions and have bad or wrong data. Additionally, working this way leads to more problems. Using the wrong data and asking the wrong questions means we get wrong answers. Relatedly, Russell Ackoff said it was most important to make sure you taking appropriate action. Appropriate action is impossible with the wrong data and the wrong question. As he explained,
Climate change is a current example where people cherry pick data to support a preconceived view rather than letting data determine the situation. Walter Williams regular uses cherry picked data to support a different pespective as he did in his November 20, 2019 column, Scientists: Dishonest or Afraid?. A response to his column pointing out that he used bad data can be seen at, Climate scientists neither dishonest nor afraid. In my view, it is important for us to get perspective. To get perspective, it often requires us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
From a larger perspective, there are no problems just a reality to improve. In other words, things are functioning, all we can do is improve what we are doing to have a more beneficial impact.
In this episode, which is also on Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast , Gladwell interviews Rosanne Haggerty about homelessness. Rosanne explains how we are asking the wrong questions about homelessness. She explains that we believe the homeless problem cannot be solved because we are using the wrong data. She also explains how we are spending more to keep the status quo than it would cost to provide a solution to the housing problem from which everyone could benefit. She suggests a sticking point may be an issue of fairness. I encourage you to listen to this episode on #Solvable and share your thoughts here.
With regard to cost, once again this is the wrong question. It is not how much will it cost but how much can we save by providing housing. A positive benefit would be calculated even before related benefits such as what those people can contribute to society are considered.
This is another “True Cost” example (see True cost is all about The External Ripple). True costs for homelessness must include the widespread burden put on public service workers, police, teachers, EMT, court systems, doctors, librarians, emergency rooms, and the healthcare systems. We can provide an investment in housing for less then it costs to maintain the status quo and this investment will pay societal dividends that benefit everyone and everything.
If you are interested, Roseanne Haggerty indicated that the article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell, Million Dollar Murray helped inspire her work. The article outlines the huge costs of just one homeless person had for society.
The issue about the wrong question and the wrong data resonates with me because it has been my life’s work. My work has focused on improving health. While most believe better health is accomplished by minimizing and or preventing disease. That line of thinking is once again asking the wrong question which means that associated work provides inappropriate data. Of course decreasing disease problems is helpful and good, but better health cannot be answered by focusing on disease. Please see Prevention Can’t Work and Problems are Irrelevant!.
Currently we have an acute disease care system which is helpful, useful and important to treat problems for the short term. This system, however, is insufficient and inappropriate to generate a better life for all. To create a better life, we must ask about how can we not just have better health, but how do we create a better life for everyone and everything, not possible as things are now.
Health is important, not as an ends, but as a means because it enables a better life. As James Clear explains,
Having health isn’t everything, not having it is.
To create this better life, we must consider everyone and everything because we are all connected and we all rise and fall together. The question cannot be how do we fix disease and or infirmity, but how do we cause health. We also must be sure that health is understood as the World Health Organization defines it:
A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being
merely the absence of disease and infirmity.
This concept can be applied to everything. I use it for all I do. For example, I have applied this idea to Higher Education when I sought to discover What Helps Students Thrive? not just survive. The questions cannot be about how we prevent failure but how do we facilitate higher levels of success, not possible otherwise. This is what I call Exceeding Expectations, +3. (see video)
I continually challenge myself to exceed expectations. I ask myself, how can do my best in my roles as a husband, parent, friend, co-worker, professor and citizen? My question for myself is how can contribute more as a member of society, not just how do I avoid causing problems. I know when I do this, generated benefits are widespread. Doing this helps others, it helps me feel better about myself, and these actions provide data to support the positive feeling generated about myself. It is a no lose proposition.
If we don’t ask the question, better answers will only be discovered by accident. I recommend we make a concerted effort to ask the right question. Asking the right questions will help us get the right data which will help us make better decisions which can benefit all. In other words, we should be asking ourselves, how can we…
Generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits?
For those of you that follow me, you know this is how to practice paneugenesis or create all good. Don’t we all want to be contributing members of society? Doing this enables us to be who we want to be. As more of us do this, we create a better life for ourselves because we live a life of purpose and meaning. A by-product from living this way, as more of us do this, a better society for everyone and everything evolves.
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