The Cure is Not the Cause

A friend worked at a company that instituted a no cell phone policy during meetings. Apparently too many people were on their phones instead of paying attention.

If you look at it from an authoritarian standpoint as an organizer, the cause for lack of engagement was cell phone use.  But put yourself in the shoes of an attendee and you see that cell phones were not the cause of the problem, but the cure for it. The problem was boredom. The cause was too many or too long or not interesting enough meetings.

We see cures blamed as causes everywhere. Schools routinely blame whatever form of escape, entertainment, distraction, or even real learning that kids conceive to cope with the rigid soul-sucking structure of the system. From a top-down, black-and-white rulers standpoint, the answer is always more bans and more rules.

What would happen instead if we assumed rationality and no malintent on the part of the cell phone users or students?  What might their behavior reveal about the system or process?  If you run a business you can get mad at customers who don’t do what you want all you like, but attacking or placing restrictions on them is not a long term strategy for success in a competitive market. You must try to understand why they aren’t doing what you want and adapt your offerings.

When people are looking for an escape don’t block the exit.  Instead try to learn why they want out in the first place.

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