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Analyzing Fundamentals

Analyzing Fundamentals

When analyzing a problem to move forward towards a solution, there is a lot of emphasis placed on determining the impact of the fundamentals of the problem.

We place a lot of importance in understanding, revisiting, and honoring the fundamentals of a problem, because they come, not from conceived wisdom, or even perceived wisdom, but from received wisdom.

Of course, this wisdom is received from a past when the fundamentals weren’t fundamental, they were merely subjective reality, based upon the circumstances of that time and place.

Or, this received wisdom isn’t really wisdom at all, but merely regurgitated conventional wisdom, which has two marks against it before it even is spoken into existence—yet again.

In the now, when confronted by a problem that seems to resembles one we faced in the past, we hearken back to that received wisdom, and being trapped by hindsight bias, we demand that fundamentals be re-instituted.

But this is just a clever version of the idea of returning to a past when everybody got along, there was no strife, and the fundamentals were sound.

Here’s the thing:

Demanding a return to the fundamentals can be a callback to received wisdom, but only if the current problem resembles a past one in any kind of way. And problems involving people, rather than processes, are constantly in flux.

Creating a solution to a problem based in the fundamentals can be a foundation to work from. But they can also be the concrete that traps a person, a community, a society, or culture, in a species of cloudy nostalgia for a past that never really was. And once trapped by such nostalgia, those same people, communities, societies, and cultures, are inevitably surprised when an outlier comes along who doesn’t care about the concrete of the basic principles.

Advocating for fundamentals based in received wisdom can be biased, not only because they reflect the prejudices of our personal attributions to past events, our personal desire to minimize dissonance in the present, and our personal need for stability and security in the future, but also because our personal hindsight is always perfect.

But in reality, getting to resolution and discovering what fundamental actually worked to solve which problem in the past, was always complicated, messy, mistake-prone, and not assured of success.

Making a rhetorical appeal to return to the basics is inherently flawed when the current circumstances don’t even remotely resemble previous circumstances.

And having the courage to throw the past fundamentals out and establish new ones, will always increase conflict, rather than decrease it.

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Jesan Sorrells

Jesan Sorrells is the Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant with Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT) based in Endicott, NY. HSCT focuses on helping startup founders, executives and others attain peace in their organizations, their communities and their lives. Jesan currently serves on the Cornell Cooperate Extension of Broome County Board of Directors, and as the Membership Chair on the board of the Association of Conflict Resolution Center in NYC. He is also involved extensively in the startup ecosystem in the Southern Tier through the Entrepreneurs' Alliance and other organizations.

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