Fixes that Fail




I have trouble saying no. Lots of reasons. Chief among them is that I’ve gotten reward signals for a long time that are basically along the lines of “if you say yes and solve the problem quickly, the more people would like you, the more value you will add, the more money you will make.”

Many of us are rewarded for our ability to solve problems. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia and learned you often had to solve problems with the limited resources you had on your farm. When a challenge arose, you would look around, grab what you had, and solve the problem as best you could. Would it be pretty? Probably not. Was the solution sustainable? Maybe not. But did it get the job done? Yes. 

My mom calls this skill “farm ingenuity,” and I’ve always found the notion so charming. It was a point of pride: I know how to make useful things out of scraps and leftovers. I’m so resourceful! While it’s a valuable skill, it has its limitations. There is a point at which your quick fix becomes the norm, and you stop evolving. When you accept the first idea you had when the problem arose, that interim solution turns into just the way things are. 

The danger of solving the problem quickly and moving on is that we fail to learn and evolve.

We may be solving the wrong problem or be patting ourselves on the back for keeping a broken and unsustainable machine running a little longer, rather than reimagining what is possible. 

There are lots of reasons why articulating and syncing on the goal, rather than diving right in to solve the problem, can feel like the wrong end to start with – even though it’s the most productive action we can take. 

While it’s been a long time since I’ve lived on a farm and been isolated from resources, it’s hard to shake the idea that I’m allowing the pain of problems to fester if I don’t roll up my sleeves and fix them immediately. That somehow, stepping way back to ask if we’re even aiming for the right goal is a waste of everyone’s time. 

This bias for action can feel good in the short term, but so often leads to stagnant outcomes.

More and more I’m noticing that if I am only focused on addressing a point-in-time problem, I’m maintaining rather than evolving. And if I don’t come back to learn and iterate, then the narrow, quick fix can impede true progress.


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