Asking Better Questions Can Generate a Better Tomorrow

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.

This issue was brought to my attention as I listened to the first episode of the Solvable Podcast.

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

and not

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.


Please share how you practice paneugenesis. I encourage you to practice paneugenesis to make it a Great Holiday season for yourself and everyone else. Enjoy and feel good about the beneficial interactions you create with friends, family and the environment.


Evolve Maintenance to Improvement to Create +3’s

Psychologically, socially, and even genetically we desire improvement, not just once in a while but always. We always want to improve because we quickly adapt to all new situations. In famous studies it shows whether one wins a million dollars or tragically becomes quadraplegic, their level of happiness or life satisfaction returns to what it was in a years time.


In other words, this is more evidence that improvement means it is not just ending problems but the creation or evolution to a higher state of functioning. This higher state of functioning also must be created from our newly developed skills and increased capacity so this new level of functioning has been earned.  It has been repeatedly shown by several experts  that shortcuts to happiness, i.e. drugs instead of developed abilities or poor service focus and lower quality produced, generally provides a fast track to depression and lower profits. It is thought that these improved feelings do not last because we know that we don’t deserve improved outcomes.

As I have noted repeatedly, eliminating problems simply brings us back to where we were before, not better. Our constant goal and aim should be to create comprehensive benefits by creating interactions that benefit everyone and everything. Last summer I attended the 2014 UNC Sustainability Summit at Appalachian . At this summit, the difference between maintenance and improvement was noted. Maintenance means to maintain what we have. Of course that is good and better than making things worse and may be needed when something doesn’t work. From another perspective, it may be valuable to not see this as a problem but as an opportunity. These situations are an opportunity to create better if the focus is on true improvement and the aim is to create a +3 so everyone and everything benefits. Recall +3 relates to Exceeding Expectations.

A way to put this idea into practice is to evolve maintenance programs, groups or people to Continuous Improvers. As I have often discussed, the paneugenesis concept and model’s basic aim is to produce gains and make things better than they could be otherwise. As has been repeatedly documented, work groups that are free and able to continually improve a process unleashes creativity, knowledge, and motivation and it is these conditions that create and will often lead to beneficial serendipitous contributions.

The paneugenesis model creates improvement opportunities with its focus on continuing efforts to improve outcomes. Langley (2009) provides an example of how to apply these ideas. As a student of W. Edwards Deming quality management methods, he suggests evolving maintenance responsibilities toward ones that find ways to improve, not just maintain. Maintanence is not improvement because it often means putting out incessant fires or emergencies, which would  be a -3 so it can be returned to the status quo (0) or expected levels. The aim should be better or +3 outcomes that exceed expectations.

Therefore, if a Maintenance crew would practice paneugenesis they would evolve into improvement teams. That crew would then move beyond efforts to maintain the status quo toward efforts focused on improvement by instilling the aim of producing comprehensive benefits made possible by using system thinking to generate improved, pervasive results. This improvement approach can be adopted by all, so efforts improve and create a better reality instead of just maintaining the status quo.

UPDATE: In Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book, “Thank You for Being Late: An optimists guide to thriving in the age of accelerations” he explains how new, fast, free, ubiquitous and easy to use technology is helping make  this happen. He cites QualComm’s maintenance teams who are no longer just janitors but are now building technicians. Not only can they fix problems that arise, because of all the time sensors, they now have insight on how to fix it before it is problem and or how to make it work better than before. He explains they now have an ability to improve their contributions and this has created higher job satisfaction. Now these workers can make improvement because of available intelligent assistance from smart sensors in the building. These sensors complete what would be like an EKG or MRI of humans to their buildings thus giving the maintenance team insight and information on what can be improved.

Paneugenesis's Comprehensive Benefits
Paneugenesis’s Comprehensive Benefits

The paneugenesis model provides a framework or guide for groups to follow to exceed expectations and to achieve improvements beyond the status quo. Focusing on improvement imbues employees with an added opportunity to contribute and this has been shown to not only motivate employee’s and or individuals but also improves efforts. Efforts are improved because this method provides a strategy that uses distributed intelligence rather than centralized intelligence (Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 1999). Practicing paneugenesis at organizations and in society creates smart, learning groups and these efforts are likely to generate improved (+3) outcomes by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

The aim of paneugenesis is to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. This can be done by using this 4 step Paneugenesis Process:

1. Operationalize an Idealized Outcome – make sure all involved parties know what is to be created and be sure that it is better than what can be now. The outcome should have pervasive and reciprocal effects that carry meaning and impact to and beyond the individual.

2. Discover Precursors – what must exist now to make the idealized outcome a reality. Discover what skills, abilities, traits, environments are necessary and or  must exist to realize the idealized outcome. These precursors are conditions that must be created and not currently present.

3. Optimize the Process – what must be done to create those precursors that will enable the idealized outcome to be realized – go do that now! Do what must be done to create and put in place the necessary precursors discovered.

4. Plot Progress – find measures that document and demonstrate progress is being made toward the creation of discovered precursors and or idealized outcomes. Progress measures that indicate movement is being made toward the creation of the new, desired reality are necessary to give meaning and purpose to the process and to help participants maintain motivation.

I look forward to hearing how you help make it a Great Week for everyone and everything!

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Contact me at:


What Makes Sense Leads to Moral Progress

Morality predicated on external pressures is never sufficient.                                               – Immanuel Kant

As explained in Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s TED Presentation, “The Long Reach of Reason” (also below) moral progress has been instigated through reasoned arguments that documented inconsistency in values, actions, and common sense.  After discussing some examples of how reasoned arguments led to moral progress, they wonder if our grandchildren will be as appalled by our actions as we are of our ancestors who saw things such as beheadings and slavery as normal. Won’t our ancestors or even our children wonder why we focused on eliminating disease when we were wanting to experience better health that we defined as the presence of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity? After all, doing actions and engaging in thoughts that lead to or cause health to create gains in well-being beyond just the absence of problems is a reasoned, logical course of action. Efforts focused on eliminating problems are insufficient and illogical if improved well-being is the goal.

Eliminating problems just brings us back to where we were, not better. If we want to be better, logic and reason suggests we must first determine the better outcome, Operationalize and Idealized Outcome, we want that is not available now and then determine how to create that better reality, Discover Precursors, Optimize the Process, and Plot Progress. This idea is the objective with salutogenesis and paneugenesis and the idea is explained in the Exceeding Expectations video you can access here or below. Reasoning and logic suggests focusing on and working toward creating a better is the obvious way  to create a better tomorrow.


I look forward to hearing about how you will be exceeding YOUR expectations, doing so will generate comprehensive improvements as you create interactions that help everyone and everything benefit.


Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Its not about Paying More – It is about Creating Better!

Last week I attended a presentation about Corporate Social Responsibility. It was impressive how some of these companies are doing things to make things in sustainable ways while paying living wages. The message however was that we have to pay more for our goods to support these noble efforts. I disagree.

I disagree for a few reasons. To me, if they want us to buy their goods instead of from others who are doing things traditionally, they need to be better. I do agree we should support doing the right thing but not to get the same thing for a higher price. In all that I have read and learned, doing things in line with nature or in sustainable/restorative ways will save money. As Interface Global carpet company has shown, they can do do better by doing good. (I linked you to a presentation I did about Interface’s efforts) I encourage you to review their story here. They grew their company dramatically while becoming a sustainable and  restorative company.

The ideas were also discussed extensively at the 2013 Purdue Deming Conference

their theme was New Thinking for a Sustainable World. To me W. Edwards Deming, the quality management giant, promoted Green or sustainable practices. I recommend you go to the institute created for him at to learn more. There are many books about him that are good. America first learned  about him from the 1979 TV show, If Japan Can, Why Can’t We. His books include New Economics and Out of Crisis.

In other words, I am suggesting we must not only do things right in selfish, selfless, synergistic ways that benefit everyone and everything, our efforts must produce better results so we can Exceed Expectations (see linked video). As described, this is to Practice Paneugenesis (see linked video). By doing this better outcomes that produce comprehensive benefits will just happen.

Be Well’r,

Craig Becker