Are You Fixing the Problem or the Symptom?

There was this story I heard a while ago, I believe it was from a TED talk somewhere, and it goes something like this:

Three friends were out taking a stroll by the bridge when one of them noticed several babies floating down the river.

Shocked by what they saw, the first friend started panicking and yelling for help. The second friend quickly took action and jumped down the bridge to save the babies one by one.

Seeing this, the first friend started to calm down and joins the second friend in rescuing the babies. But for every baby they saved, another one comes floating by. Meanwhile, the third friend decides to runs away.

“Where are you going? Don’t you see there are babies to be saved?” shouted the first friend.

“I’m following the river upstream to see who’s dumping all these babies into the river!” replied the third friend.

From a TED talk somewhere…

Sometimes, when we’re facing a problem, it’s all too easy to try and fix only the symptoms. It’s highly visible and you can get a lot of credit for it. Your house is on fire? Don’t worry, the firefighters are on the way! Another house on fire? More firefighters to the rescue!

But that’s not the problem, the real problem might be because the entire neighborhood has faulty electric wiring. Or it might be because it’s the hot and dry season and lots of houses keep flammable materials out in the open. Or maybe all the kids like playing with magnifying glasses in their backyard. Who knows? But you won’t know until you go upstream and investigate what the problem is.

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