The Quick Fix Bias

Seems we are more interested in a quick fix to any problem rather than trying to truly understand and act on the underlying reasons the problem exists in the first place. Overweight? Here is the miracle drug that claims you don’t have to change any of your bad habits! Can’t perform this or that? There’s a pill for that … but beware, and call the doctor if the results last for more than four hours.

We no longer ask the tough questions. As
soon as someone promises the quick fix, we seem prone to jump on it. Surgical strikes in Iraq will deter ISIS. Sanctions on Putin will stop his aggression. Ban the incandescent lamp and it will cure American energy policy. Promote solar and wind and we will never have to build another power plant. The list goes on.

My wife and I were talking this morning about the crisis with ISIS and the reasons this group is succeeding. It is a scary story. For a better understanding of the reasons why, check out this wonderful documentary.

This all reminds me of my early days as an engineer working on nuclear submarines under the leadership of Admiral Rickover. He was never interested in quick fixes. He insisted on getting to the root cause for each and every difficulty because he knew future funding of the nuclear navy depended upon the confidence of the American people in nuclear power. He had crystal clear focus and tolerated nothing that could threaten that mission.

While I didn’t always agree with the Admiral, I admired that everyone working under his command knew precisely where he stood and the reasons why. Rickover had the long view and the results were and are a nuclear navy that is the envy of the world. And, as the navy nuclear plant operators left the navy they became the staff of the American nuclear land-based power plant fleet. That is one of the key reasons our nuclear fleet runs so well. Thank you Admiral Rickover.

Leadership of this style seems to have fallen out of favor. We now believe consensus is the high road of leadership. Rickover didn’t believe in consensus. In fact, he despised it. Maybe we should as well.

The long view vs. the quick fix, that seems to be a central element of so many of our current problem.

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