Clusters of Crises – Interlocking Solutions

Last night, I presented my synopsis of This Time is Different:  Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff.  I presented this at a gathering hosted by a financial planning team, and a member of that team took the floor following my presentation for his observations and Q & A.  Here is the quote from the book that he said deserved special attention:

Crises often occur in clusters.

His point was clear:  there is not one problem in the financial world, but a group, a cluster of problems.  The subprime mortgage crisis, the banking crisis, the Wall Street crisis, the international debt crisis, they are all different – they are all interlocking…

It reminded me again of an important principle I first learned from Scott Peck’s book, In Search of Stones.  The idea is found in the word “overdetermined.”  And the word means this:  there is no one cause for a problem, and there is no one solution to the problem(s).  Here’s an excerpt from the book:

I want to scream this from the rooftops:  “All symptoms are overdetermined.”  Except that I want to expand it way beyond psychiatry.  I want to expand it to almost everything.  I want to translate it, “Anything of any significance is overdetermined.  Everything worth thinking about has more than one cause.”  Repeat after me:  “For any single thing of importance, there are multiple reasons.”  Again, “For any single thing of importance, there are multiple reasons.”

So, there is no one problem:  Crises often occur in clusters.

And there is no one solution.  In The Working Poor:  (Invisible in America) David K. Shipler speaks strongly to this.  He states that the problems of the working poor are many, and the solutions must also be many, varied, interlocking.  Here are some quotes:

For practically every family, the ingredients of poverty are part financial and part psychological, part personal and part societal, part past and part present.  Every problem magnifies the impact of the others, and all are so tightly interlocked that one reversal can produce a chain reaction with results far distant from the original cause.

If problems are interlocking, then so must solutions be.  A job alone is not enough.  Medical insurance alone is not enough.  Good housing alone is not enough.  Reliable transportation, careful family budgeting, effective parenting, effective schooling are not enough when each is achieved in isolation from the rest.  There is no single variable that can be altered to help working people move away from the edge of poverty.  Only where the full array of factors is attacked can America fulfill its promise.

And here’s my summary paragraph of the book:

The working poor are poor because of an interlocking array of reasons.  Any approach to solutions has to grasp the complexity of the problem(s), and provide a multi-faceted strategy to pursue solutions, all at once – continually.

This blog is about:  business books, business book authors, business ideas…  Actually, it is a blog about problems, and solutions.  And there will be many who read this blog looking for clarification on the problem(s), and looking for the (one) answer.  I’ve got bad news.  There is no one problem.  And there is no one solution.   There are problems. There are solutions.  And it is/they are all interlocking, overdetermined.

That’s why there is always another thought to blog about.  And that’s why we have a blogging team.  Because we will never arrive at “having fully learned.” We simply keep learning.

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