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The systems view shows us it isn’t that simple

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

The systems view shows us it isn’t that simple

Scott Miker

It seems that every so often we hear about an extremely successful person who falls from grace.  It could be that they were violent against others, that they tolerated unethical behavior from those around them, that they built a culture of corruption etc. 

The news media pounces immediately and brings forward any information that catches the headlines.  People form instant opinions on the situation based on their personal beliefs of the person.

They may make excuses and say it is the media blowing it out of proportion.  It could be that they feel justified in hating that person and feel vindicated for all their criticism over the years.

The problem is that it often represents a complex system.  So anyone can grab the element that suites their personal agenda and latch on. 

The media wants headlines.  So they grab the most shocking, attention-getting portions of the story.

The defenders want to find anything that gives insight into why it isn’t their fault or why everyone is doing it and they just got caught.

The critics want to say, “see I told you he or she was a bad person.”

This might make it difficult to see the full picture.  One thing that I have done when this happens and I find myself passionately on one side of the argument is to try and see the other side. 

Typically this is difficult.  It requires going outside of our emotional response to the situation, which is difficult.  If we are emotionally vested in the situation or the person, then we will almost certainly let our emotions grab ahold of us and influence our thoughts about the situation. 

Most of the time in these situations there are still positives and negatives just like everything in life.  There are two sides to every coin so finding the two sides to the story when it seems like everyone is pointing to the same side can be difficult.

But if we can do this, we can start to better understand our world.  When someone makes a decision that comes back to haunt them we can investigate and see why they made that decision.  In their mind, at some point, they felt they made the right decision.  The reasons behind their decision can help see the other side. 

But society seems to be moving further away from systems thinking and closer to linear thinking.  We take a slice of information and form opinions that seem very black and white. 

While this might help us make sense when something shocking comes out about someone famous, it doesn’t really help us improve.  Instead we should look at it systematically and then use it to evaluate what we are doing. 

Where are we making a decision that seems right in the current light, but that could be viewed differently under another circumstance? 

If we are sticking up for a friend, can that look like we are enabling a criminal?  If we are willing to sacrifice our bodies by using performance-enhancing drugs to be the best we can be, will that be viewed as cheating and the success will be tarnished forever?  If we are in charge of picking the right vendor for a new city project, can our friendship with one of the bidders be pulling us towards them and misleading us that they are the best option?

We all have to make decisions every day based on the information that we have.  We try to do what is right.  But often what happens is that we have conflicting “right” choices.  Doing what is right is not as black and white.  Often it means doing right by one person or group by doing wrong by another.

This doesn’t justify bad choices.  Instead it should help us all see the complexity of the situations we face and make sure we are doing what we feel is the best way forward, knowing that some people will applaud and some will criticize, knowing that in some ways it is the right choice and some ways it is the wrong choice.