The Smarter People Blog

Human Capital Analtyics thoughts, views and opinion, from SPP thought leadership and industry experts.

Scientific descriptions of human behavior

Scientific descriptions of human behavior

It is roughly accurate to characterize the enterprise of science as explaining how one billiard ball strikes another and how that one ricochets into another, and so on. But when this approach is applied to people, it can fall short, because people are goal-oriented. For example, the philosopher John Searle noted that “If you describe a car and leave out driving, you’ve left out something important.” He went on to say, “Cars are for driving; dollars for earning, spending, and saving; bathtubs for taking a bath.”

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Complex Problems Require Systems Thinking

Complex Problems Require Systems Thinking

H. L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, straightforward, and wrong.” How do you solve complex problems? Sometimes you can “just do it,” knock down the first domino—which topples the next in a long line of dominoes—and achieve the result you want. More often, however, the world is not domino-simple. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley nailed the nature of the problem: “Nothing in the world is single, All things...In one another’s being mingle....” Business strategist Peter Senge has expressed the same idea less poetically but more precisely: “human endeavors are...systems. They...are bound by invisible fabrics of interrelated actions, which often take years to fully play out their effects on each other.” Senge said this is a problem of dynamic complexity, which he defined as “situations where cause and effect are subtle, and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious.”

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