Sunday, May 03, 2015

Mind & Spirit -> "Decision Making Part I"


What is a decision?

imageThink about it for a minute.  We all make decisions every day, but do we really think about what a decision actually is?  Yet, there are only two things that define who we are.  

1. The decisions that we make.

2. The discipline to follow on those decisions.

If we are to really think about it, there is nothing more important for success in this life or the afterlife other than these two things.  Yet, although life is made up around these two aspects, we spend no time thinking about these aspects.  You have never been trained in making decisions.  Chances are, you have never taken a course in discipline.  This is a massive cognitive hole in the world wide psyche.  The cornerstone of all progress is something we don't talk about or teach people about.

This is not to say that there hasn't been a ton of research and thinking about this.  In previous blog entries, I have touched on discipline, and did a review on “habit,” and the ability to continue to stay to a given path.  In the old days, somebody that had discipline was considered to have fortitude, which means courage, because all discipline requires this.  As much as I would like to focus on discipline because it is a rich subject and much more could be written, today we are going to be thinking about how we make decisions.

As we have many times in the past, we will pull from wikipedia.  The article on decision making starts off by calling out that there are three modes of study when we think about decisions.

They call out the first mode of making decision has to do with the psychology of making decisions.  What do they mean by this?  Our brains are wired in a wonderful yet often confusing fashion.  If I ask you, "How do you make a good decision?" you will probably answer back something like this:

1. Gather information

2. List the options and figure out what the risks versus gains

3. Act on the decision, and communicate it to other people if necessary

I recently asked my team how to make a good decision, and the feedback was exactly as the three steps up above.  Really, if you think about it, this seems so simple.  Ironically, if all you do is list the three steps and ask yourself ,"Have I done this?"  you will probably catch a lot of your own mistakes.  

Yet, we need to think about this a little bit more.  The problem is that what sounds so simple is actually incredibly difficult because the amount of information that we need to deal with is overwhelming.  I have written this before, but the amount of information that you are able to cognitively process is around 19Kbits per second.  All of your senses is flooding you with information at somewhere in the neighborhood of a 1Gbit per second or more.  If you gathered all the information coming to you at any second, you would be information overload because you'd be cramming and overstuffing your 19Kbit input pipe.

We have all had this happen to us about a relationship, something that we were going to buy, or other decision that we needed to make.  The more that we think about something, the more that we slow down.  

This leads to the wonderful poem "The Centipede's Dilemma"

A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.

I have heard so many times that it almost hurts, "Analysis Paralysis."  Now, I don’t want to suggest that some of the things said with this phase is completely false, but most times I hear this thrown out by a senior manager to express displeasure about how fast something is moving.  “They aren’t making a decision,” is said, but they really are saying is “they don’t know how to make a decision.”

This compounded by the glorification of the snap decisions.  All your life, you have been told that leaders are "decisive."  From stories about sports, war and business, we talk about the leader that "made a decision with his gut" and saved the day.  We are all encouraged to move fast and make our decisions.

So, we are now stuck.  Is decision making a process, or do we go with our gut. 

Dilbert helps here nicely with showing what often happens in the business place.

Let me inform you that analysis paralysis does not exist, and substituting “your gut” for logical problem solving is just asking for disaster.  Instead, we need to peel back the onion, and find out what is going wrong.

If you remember the blog post on Kahneman, we as human beings either do things in type 1 or type 2 thinking.  Type 2 thinking is when we are using our brain power and analyzing the issue.  What most people call "analysis paralysis" is actual simply bad habits.  It is people that simply dawdle over stuff without the discipline needed to make the decision.

The problem is procrastination.

The very first thing to do when making a decision is to simply say, "how fast do I really need to make this decision?"  This is a massively important issue to think through.  What is often termed "analysis paralysis" is simply "procrastination."  It turns out that most people will simply put stuff off if given the ability to put things off.  A popular experiment is to take classes and give students a deadline or have no deadline other than having in the work by the end of the quarter.  It turns out, which should be a surprise to absolutely nobody who has been in a class, having deadlines are incredibly important.  When we allow students to simply turn in work "any old time," we find out that people delay the turn in.

Image(1)Ironically, it turns out that self imposed deadlines are almost effective as teacher imposed deadlines.  It turns out that having any deadlines, external or internal, results in much higher performance.  The word to capitalize on is "precommitment."  This is a term used by Nobel Prize winner Thomas Schelling.  The idea behind precommitment is basically setting out a path first and limit your options, then you will naturally tend to go down that path rather than procrastinate.  

So, because we know that human beings tend to lean toward getting stuck, you say, "Guess what everbody, we have a deadline."  Sometimes, there are other precommitment devices that are very powerful.  Sometimes you simply need to limit future paths.  

This is a very old concept, and Aesop wrote about this in his fable the Cat and the Fox.  I clipped this from the web:

A Fox was boasting to a Cat of its clever devices for escaping its enemies.
"I have a whole bag of tricks," he said, "which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies."
"I have only one," said the Cat; "but I can generally manage with that."
Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the Cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs.
"This is my plan," said the Cat. "What are you going to do?"
The Fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the Fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen. Miss Puss, who had been looking on, said:
Moral of Aesops Fable: Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon

Options are good, but too many options drive you crazy.

There are two different paths to precommitment:  change reward and change decision options.


It turns out that one of the most powerful precommitment devices for reducing decision points goes back to the Michael Porter, the most influential business strategists in the world.  His ideas were extended by Treacy and Weirsema in their book "The Discipline Of Market Leaders."  Although they did not recognize the precommitment device or reference Schelling, they understood that successful companies tended to be disciplined.  This discipline came from precommitting.  It turns out that the most power precommitment is to a strategy.  Porter lays out the strategy options.

I like the Treacy and Weirsema refinement of the options for precommitment.  The point is that to be successful, you need to limit your options.  You need to figure out a way of not procrastinating.  The best way of making sure that you commit to a path is deciding upfront the paths that you won't go down.  This then allows you to make smart decisions.

When we start up a business, we need to figure out want we want to stand for.  What will be our rallying cry.

The three generic strategies for a business are show in the following diagram:


Product Leadership:  You will have the biggest, the baddest, the best thing in the market.

Customer Intimacy:  You will customize your solution for whatever your customer wants.  You will listen to all of their concerns and aim your company at making whatever minor tweaks necessary to fit their strange needs.

Operational Excellence: You will deliver a lot of product at the best possible quality.  You aim for the bulk of the market, and you are willing to sacrifice the other two areas if it means it is going to significantly impact your cost.

Now the key to the above is to recognize that you need to do a little bit of each one of these things, but on two of the axes, you are willing to draw a line and say, "this is good enough."  This is a powerful device to allow people to limit the options so they don't procrastinate.

To expand on this, even as individuals, we need to figure out how we want to approach our careers.  The person that is all about product leadership will be thinking about "how do I become a world class expert in whatever field that I am pursuing."  You will tend toward having your Ph.D.  You will go deep into any subject that you are call on.  I believe these are also the people that want to dream a little higher, or think a little bigger.  They enjoy striving to the unrealistic and seeing how close they can get.  If this gets out of hand, they construct ideas that overstretch and breaks the org.

If you determine that you will be customer intimate, you will focus on what niche you can fill inside of the company.  You will say, "here is an opening that nobody else is filling.  I will modify whatever I am doing so I can become the unique person that can fill this role."  This area can also see some bad habits.  People that are customer intimate can turn and start to focus on just their boss, and  become overly political.  Taken out of context, this means that they will be focused more on personalities rather than the company.

If you determine that you are going to be operationally excellent, you will say, "I will become known as being the person that simply gets things done."  You will constantly ask yourself, "How do I get more out of the resources that I have been given?"  You will focus on trying to create a system where people are always getting more and more with less and less required input.  However, this can turn badly also.  If not managed correctly, you can become heartless and unkind.  The Bible teaches that there is a time for charity and kindness, even if this means that you are not optimally efficient.

This blog posting has turned into quite a discourse.  Rather than expanding this post, we will return to the subject in future postings on making decisions.  However, let us summarize what we have discussed today.  

Decisions is one of the two fundamental pillars of our life.  Everyone thinks that they know how to make a decision, but decision making actually turns out to be very important.  In this blog post, I immediately warned that making fast decisions is not the best choice in many ways.  The first thing that we needed to worry about is making decisions within a deadline.  This deadline is to facilitate something called precommitment.  The most powerful precommitment device is to call out a strategy.  Then we covered the three main types of strategies as laid out by Treacy and Wiersema.  

We have a lot to cover in future post, including why making snap decisions is a really bad idea, and how to use tools like Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) to help us make better decisions.

I hope you decide to follow me in this journey.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

“Mind and Spirit”–> Man Is To Be The Head


BT Roberts founded the Free Methodist Church.  The Church had the term “Free” due to two clear distinctives:

1. The Methodist Church at the time would charge families for pews in the Church.  You would know who was the rich by the pew that they bought.

2. They believed that slavery had no place in God’s Kingdom, and the were strong believers in abolishing slavery.

Out of this understanding of the scriptures, they had one other clear understanding:  that women were not restricted in their roles in the Church.  While most Churches do no allow women to be pastors, the Free Methodist Church was one of the first to allow women to serve in leadership roles.

I was raised as a Free Methodist, and because I love John Wesley so much, their theology is strangely warming to my soul.  While women pastors are far and few between, our church did have a woman Pastor, who’s first name was Marty.  She was warm and insightful, and I enjoyed her preaching more than our normal Pastor.  I was many years into my teens before I started to understand that other Churches did not allow women to be pastors.  Quite frankly, I believed that the other churches were simply missing the boat.  There is a story in the Old Testament where Deborah led Israel to a great victory.  If women in leadership was a problem, then Deborah should have never existed.

I remember on time when Marty was preaching, she said, “Many people, when they find out that I am a woman and a Pastor ask me, ‘But why did Paul say that women were not to preach?’” Marty had a deadpan look, and se continued, “I tell them that Paul was a chauvinist pig.”  Then she laughed, “Because that’s what they want me to say. I don’t actually believe that at all.”

Marty then went on to explain that all Scripture needed to be looked at in terms of the culture.  If not, then most Christian would be endorsing slavery because Paul talked to slaves.  She would say that there was plenty of balancing scriptures that indicate that women can and should serve. 

I agree with Marty.  Women can be pastors, and Marty had a positive impact on the Kingdom of God due to her service.

However, the controversy continues to rage on today.  My youngest daughter has grave concerns about the role of men versus women.  This happens to be the topic of conversation with her slightly older brother that seems to be delighted in reminder her of versus like the following:

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

New International Version (NIV)

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.  If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

This squabble between my kids is much bigger in nature.  There are men that love to push that they are the head of the household, and they make sure that everybody knows it.  There are women that say that they are little more than slaves to men.  Their whole goal in life is to make sure that this injustice is overturned. 

The Christian Church has tried to deal with this question for many years, and two views have sprung into view.  The first one is egalitarianism.  This means that in Christ there is no male nor female.  This means that women can hold any role in the Church, and in Churches such as the Nazarene, Free Methodist, and Assemblies of God, women can be Pastors.

The clear verse that supports this view is the following:


Galatians 3:28

New International Version (NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is a middle role that the bulk of the evangelical church has embraced, and it is called complementarianism.  This means that while men and women are of the same value in God’s eyes, they are called to different roles.  Church that adhere to this doctrine never have women as Pastors, as they don’t believe that it is their role in the Church. 

The final form, that all Evangelical Churches reject, is the idea of chauvinism.  This view would indicate that men are of significantly greater worth than women. 

So, let’s look at the section of Scripture above.  In I Cor 14, it looks like women can’t even speak.  Yet, if we look at a few verses earlier, in the same chapter, the Bible clearly calls out that women are speaking and prophesizing in church.


1 Corinthians 11:3-5

New International Version (NIV)

3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.

Or another section of scripture used to keep women from being Pastors is 1 Tim 2:11-15.  However, it is important to understand the culture that the book was written in.  As a bare minimum, most scholars believe that literacy rates were low, and non-exist for women.  It is hard to lead when you can’t read.


1 Timothy 2:11-12

New International Version (NIV)

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Paul’s first section may simply be saying that you have to be literate to teach.  If you are not, which all women were not, then you should not teach.  In contrast to this one verse, many sections of New Testament and the Old Testament should women as leaders.  Paul calls this out.

Many other scholars point to the gnostic heresy that was in the area.  The Gnostics would explain that Eve was thought to be the teacher of Adam.  Thus Paul was criticizing a particular instance of Gnosticism.

My challenge with all of this debate is that it is extraordinarily difficult to judge any one section of scripture.  I have written about this before, and I believe that the only way to deal with the Bible is to read the Bible in whole.

The decision that you will need to make is the following:

a. Do you believe in the egalitarianism or complementarianism viewpoint?

b. What belongs in the above definitions.

For me, I believe in allow women to hold virtually any office in the Church.  In this case, most would brand me as an egalitarian.  However, I actually hold the complementarian viewpoint.

How do I end up at such a strange viewpoint?  Because at the core of the egalitarian viewpoint is the idea of “we need to get back to the state before the fall.  In the garden, both Adam and Eve were equal before the Lord, and this is why women, under grace, can serve in any capacity.  I believe a careful reading of the scriptures will show that the state in the garden was one of clear roles.

Pre-fall, God spoke to the man, and, in turn, man tried to lead in the right direction.  There were words that God only spoke to the man, and the woman recognized the man’s leadership (or what should be called headship) of the relationship.  There is only one role that the woman should not lead in.  This is the role of the marriage.  We are called to be married, when we can, and all marriages should experience the roles of man and woman to God.  As long as the man and woman are agreed, the woman should be able to serve any role in the Church or in this world.  She can be the bread winner.  She can be the Pastor.  But both understand how a marriage is to be run, and the man has the headship.

So where is  this mentioned clearly?  I would argue in many places, but none as clear as in 1 Cor 11:2-3


1 Corinthians 11:2-3

New International Version (NIV)

On Covering the Head in Worship

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

This refers to the line of authority that comes from God.  It also refers to the special relationship that exists in this line of authority with a man and a woman is called headship.

I believe that the concept of headship is not something that started to happen after the fall.  I believe that the concept of headship existed in the Garden of Eden.  Eve was called out to be Adam’s helper.  The Hebrew word for this instance is ezer.  Now God can be our helper, so this does not necessarily speak to any the chain of authority in the the relationship.  However, in light of the bigger picture of Scripture, I believe that there was a line of authority in the Garden.  The man was to lead (not dominate nor boss) and the woman was to help in the direction.

The Bible teaches an enormous amount about authority.  The core of having a strong Christian faith is understanding how we should used these lines of authority.  In my mind, the scripture is pretty clear.  The woman did not throw off God directly, when she ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  She threw off the headship of her husband.

So, when Paul says what I believe is the most controversial and difficult section of scripture in 1 Tim 2:13-15, he is thinking through what really happened in the garden.  I believe this is the key in understanding the scripture.  You do not need to know Greek and Hebrew.  You simply need to know the whole Bible and read the stories with a critical, Sherlock Holmes mind.


1 Timothy 2:13-15

New International Version (NIV)

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Paul calls out that Eve was deceived.  If you have an interest in this area, how many times have you read this verse, and simply said, “sure the serpent lied.”  But here is the core of true understanding.  What does it mean to be deceived?  How was the women deceived?

Let’s use Google for the definition of deceived:


past tense: deceived; past participle: deceived
  1. (of a person) cause (someone) to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage.
    "I didn't intend to deceive people into thinking it was French champagne"
    synonyms: swindle, defraud, cheat, trick, hoodwink, hoax, dupe, take in, mislead,delude, fool, outwit, lead on, inveigle, beguile, double-cross, gull; More
    • (of a thing) give a mistaken impression.
      "the area may seem to offer nothing of interest, but don't be deceived"

We are interested in the deception of a thing.  The woman was led to believe that the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was not harmful but good.

Now, as Sherlock would call out.  Let us reconstruct the events and think logically as per the story that is often heard from pulpits.

1. The woman hears that the fruit is bad from God.

2. The woman hears that the fruit is good from the serpent (which I believe was actually a man, but this goes beyond the scope of this post, but can be found here.)

If you have two witnesses:  God and earthly being, who is a logical, non-sinful being going to believe?

The answer is obviously you are going to believe God.  However, I believe that this wasn’t the choice.  Eve was actually listening to two earthly beings:  her husband and the serpent.

If we look carefully at the series of events in the Garden, we can see that the Tree of Knowledge was planted and the warning gave long before Eve was created from man’s side.  I believe that it is easy to see that God told the man “do not eat from the tree,” and the man told the woman “don’t touch the tree or eat from it.”  If you read the story, you’ll see that by the time the woman is talking to the serpent, she doesn’t pass God’s message of simply not “eating” the fruit.  She says that it can’t be touched.  This is either because God told two slightly different commands, or by the time that the information got translated from the man to the woman, the scope slightly changed.  There was no sin in the change, just simply a simple missed understanding.

The serpent is not directly challenging God.  I would have a tough time believing that if the woman had heard a direct command from God that she simply would have disobeyed God.  She was perfect.  She had perfect will power.  She had no sin nature to temp her.  The issue was one of trusting if her husband had given her the whole story. 

Genesis 3:1-4

New International Version (NIV)

The Fall

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.

If Eve had heard God saying “Don’t eat from the tree,” Eve would have simply said, “Sure, I was standing there.  I heard it.  God said not to eat it.”  To me, the issue is exceptionally clear.  Eve got the information second hand.  She got it from her husband.  The serpent was trying to say, “Listen, things get messed up.  Some times you think you know what God wants, but it really isn’t clear.”

What happens next is amazing.  Her husband, who clearly knows better, eats the fruit also.  Paul calls it out.

1. The woman was deceived. 

2. The man wouldn’t stand up for what was right.

The man knew better.  The man had heard the word proceed from the mouth of God.  The serpent did not go to the man, because when you have the Word of God rolling around in your mind, you simply can’t dismiss it.  I believe that there was no way of getting the man to flip because he had heard the word directly.  It was the woman that was asked to rely on the message from her husband that was the attack point.  It was here that the serpent could find a weak spot because all she had to do was doubt that her husband was really communicating the word correctly.

I believe that even before the fall, there was a sense of headship in the relationship of the man and the woman.  The woman was created from the side of man.  The woman was created after man.  The role of the man to lead the relationship. The role of the woman is to have followership.  I believe that the whole of the Scripture points toward the idea of submission.  The idea that the woman is something less because of this submission is not logical.  For everybody has to submit.  Even Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, even though he is co-equal with the Father. 

But the idea of submission is half (or maybe even less than half) of the story.  Because the man or husband is call to be self-sacrificing for the wife.  He is to give his all to protect, lead, and serve his wife.  This is the reversal that finds itself so many times in the scripture.  Now that the man recognizes that he is to lead, he must now serve.  It was through serving that Jesus found the pleasure of the Father.

When Adam found out that his wife did something wrong in the Garden, what did he do?

He went along. 

I believe that the fundamental sin in the garden is the act of screwing up the relationship that a husband and wife should have together.  It is not about being a Pastor.  It is not about women not speaking.  All of that is cultural.  The one point that is not cultural is the way that man and women should act in a marriage relationship.

This is the other side of the coin that I’ve seen broken in numerous marriages.  To lead, the man must take up the mantle of leadership.  Really, I’ve found that leadership is not easy nor pleasant. If you are doing leadership right, you are seeking the Lord.  You are reading the Bible.  You are considering others.  You are praying for direction.  It is tough.

Many times, it is simply easier to go along with whatever the wife wants.  Let her do the work.  Let her lead.  Go along for the ride.  The passenger seat is a nice place to be because you don’t have to put in the effort.  And this is wrong.  The man must seek out what is right for the entire family.

I am not suggesting that this is a solo road.  I am not saying that the wife should be left out of the thinking.  I am saying, however, the ultimate direction that the marriage must take is driven by the headship of the husband.  When a man and a woman are thinking about marriage, the man must look at the relationship and ask the following questions:

1. Is the man capable of being the head of the relationship? 

In some instances, the man is simply much weaker than the woman.  He has less fiscal sense, less brainpower, less discipline, and less spiritual leadership.  Almost always in these relationships, I have seen one of two things happening.  In the first case, the man tries to lead but is incapable.  This kills the wife and quenches her capabilities.  It is a crime to have a wife that you make weaker.  The alternative is to allow the wife to lead the relationship and be the head.  However, this often results in the wife resenting the husband. 

2. Is the woman capable of being the follower?

Being a follower is not an easy road, yet it is the one that our Lord sought.  Even when the husband is capable of leading, sometimes a woman will not be willing to be the follower.  I have often seen this as the woman trying to reshape her man into something that he is not.  Now, I am not talking about something as trivial as money.  There are many women who are more capable of making money.  The question is if the the woman is willing to be lead Spiritually.  Or does the woman want to be the one driving the bus?

Image result for atomThis world is made up of atoms.  If the atoms are not solid, then the whole world falls apart.  Our spiritual world is made up of marriages, and it the most fundamental of all the forces.  God made us in his image, but male and female.  Marriage is the atom of our spiritual relationship.  If we have strong marriages, we will have strong families.  If we have strong families, we will have strong churches.  If we have a strong church, we will understand what it is to Love the Lord our God with our heart, soul and mind. 

All I can do is related my marriage.  I give my wife an extraordinary sense of freedom.  She gets to lead in so many ways, but we understand that I am supposed to be the head.  I do not always do it well, but I do try and do it.  She is not repressed, but supported.  However, we both understand that the Lord will speak to us through me.  I eagerly seek her advice, council and love.  I am not an island, but I am called to lead.

Finally, a word to the men.  If you are willing to lead, then realize that there is a chain of authority.  You may be called for headship in the the family.  However, you are also a man under submission and one that must follow.  You must be willing to follow both your Spiritual master (Jesus the Christ) and you Fiscal Master (your boss at work.)

The most important choice that you will make is where you seek spiritual guidance, and who you will submit to in your Church. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

“Spirit and Mind”–> What You Meant For Evil

I have been going through John Sterman’s Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, which is written by the person that holds the Jay Forrester Chair of Business at MIT.

In my many years of corporate engagement, the most enlightening ideas about why corporations fail is presented by the theory of System Dynamics, which was started by Jay Wright Forrester, computer architect.

However, my description of System Dynamics simply a corporate thing is selling the discipline far short.  It could be better termed a theory of why life is so complicated.  When combined with ideas from Daniel Kahneman, you’ll start to understand why we can’t predict anything.  It turns out that the world is enormously complex, and our brains are wired to not be able to accept this complexity.  Rather than looking deeper, we try and come up with very simple solutions to these problems, which often backfire.

In System Dynamics, you are given a set of tools that should help you to be able to think through some very simple issues.  For example, the diagram above is an example of Fixes That Fail.  While I am not going to take the time to go through all of the theory, I will try and walk you through the diagram above. 

In System Dynamics, you describe a problem, then you try and find the underlying mechanisms that drive the problem.  In this case, we have a problem loop.  This is described as B1, in the diagram above.  However, there are often reinforcing loops, which are shown in the picture above as R2.  The two lines that go through the R2 loop means that there is a delay before the reinforcing loop kicks in.  The + or – signs either make the issue less or more. 

Let’s say that we make a widget.  Then we find out that 1 out of every 100 widgets have a problem, and we are throwing them away.  Somebody brightly states, “Throwing all those widgets away is a bad idea.  Why are we wasting all this money.  Instead, we’ll set up a special group to go and fix these widgets so we can sell them.”  So the company sets up a rework station to fix the broken widgets.

In the diagram above, this is shown as the “Fix” part.  You can see a problem comes in with a + and the inner circle makes the problem less, so the inner loop shows a red minus arrow coming out of the fix.  So, it looks like the problem is fixed.  However, there is another loop coming out of the fix.  This loop is delayed, and it is easy to overlook.  You can also see that the fix makes problem worse, not better.  However, we often don’t see these secondary loops because they are almost always delayed.  Delayed consequences, in System Dynamics, turn out to be the thing that always gets you. 

I have seen the problem above happen the lot in my industry, but I have heard about the same problem in every other industry also.  So why is setting up a process to fix the broken widgets bad?  Almost always this means that there is less pressure on the design and manufacturing team to do things right the first time.  You know that you have a safety net, and this safety net becomes bigger and bigger and bigger.  Meanwhile, the team making the original mess, starts to get sloppier and sloppier.  They depend on the rework more and more, but the secret is that rework is never as good as doing it the first time right.

This happens beyond just corporations.  It turns out that a lot of car safety features had a limited amount of impact on deaths per mile driven.  One of the driving factors behind this is the Yerkes-Dodson law, which simply states that if you consider that cars are a death trap, you are going to be pretty safe in your operation because you are really watching for any problems.  As we put in more safety belts and airbags, drivers simply paid less attention, got themselves into more dangerous situations, and the fix made people pay less attention.  However, in the old days when people died in accidents that didn’t seem that bad, everyone paid a lot of attention to their driving.

The good news is that we have now made our cars so overbuilt with so many safety features, we have clearly started over the edge to where these safety features are definitely better than our inattention.  However, it took a very long time to get there.

So, what seemed like the most obvious decision, wearing a seat belt, did not have the impact that we would have expected.  The morale of this story is that if something as simple as wearing a seat belt is difficult to judge, how do we have a chance of making it in the real world.  We can hardly make good decisions.

I would submit that if you can enjoy the beauty of the above, you will start to understand that you are in control of very little.  In reality, there are many things that you think you control or can take credit for.  In reality, it had nothing to do with you.  This idea that we can control things is so strong that there is a name for it.  It is called the Illusion of Control.  You think you have control, but you really do not.  In reality, you cannot see the real issues and you can’t put in fixes for issues that you can’t see.

This is idea echoed through the Bible, and one of the most strongly explained story around this is the story of Joseph.  In this story, Joseph finds untold problems at the hands of his family and his employer.  However, through it all, Joseph is held up as a remarkable example because he very clearly understood that in the midst of going through everything that he thought was wrong, it was actually to fix the system. 

As shown in the woodcut to the side, a tremendous turning point in his life comes when he is called before Pharaoh to explain a dream that God gave Pharaoh.  This event takes him from prison to a key job that allows him to have a tremendous influence over all of his family and those that were his previous employers.  In a rags to riches story, this allows Joseph to exact any revenge that he would want to get.

However, the ask of revenge never comes.  Instead the story ends with his family asking for forgiveness for what wrong that they had done to him.  When they come to ask him for forgiveness, Joseph cries. 

My belief for Joseph’s tears are often not understood.  Many think that Joseph cried because he was disappointed that his brothers, who betrayed him, could not learn to trust him after all that he had done.  There may be some of this, but I believe that Joseph’s tears were not only ones of despair over his brother’s mistrust in him.  I believe many of his tears were over the frustration that after talking to them about his life, they did not understand the ways in which God worked.  Joseph was the original system thinker.  He understood that he could not see the whole, but only a part.  When you can’t see the whole, you need to trust the God that can see the whole.

He cried over the blind spot of faith that they had.  When they finally come to him, the Bible does not quote Joseph as saying “Why can’t you trust me?  Why don’t you see all the things I have done?”  If Joseph was truly mad at his brothers over their lack of trust in himself, this is the words the Bible would have quoted.  Instead, he says the following: 

Genesis 5:20

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

In other words, Joseph was deeply disturbed that they couldn’t see the system in the whole thing.  They couldn’t understand that the system was so wild and crazy that it took God to work the system to make it work. 

This is the lesson to all of us, we can trust our God. He knows what he’s doing.  He is with us.  The system is too complex for us to manage.

You may want a different job.  You may want a different house.  You may want to be removed from a difficult circumstance.

The lesson is that you can trust our God.

Most people do not understand why it is impossible to please God without Faith.  Let me explain:

1. God’s deepest desire is to see us grow and be complete and whole.

2. To do this, he will manipulate the system to make us the best that we can be.

3. Many times this means that you will not get what seems to be important or needful for you.  We need to be understanding through Faith that this is best for us.

4. So we will be in heaven one day, and we can all say, “What others meant for evil, God used for Good.”