Problem Solving: Problems, Symptoms, and Remedies

When facing what seems to be a problem, we nearly always cure/fix the symptoms and not the core issue itself. Distinguishing symptoms from the problem itself is however quite simple.

Symptoms, a necessary alarm

There is nothing more natural for a person than wait for symptoms to come up so as to identify a given problem. For example, many dentists and doctors will agree that most patients are brought to consult them only after starting to feel pain or see some funny things on them. In the same fashion, you would only fix a car when you get obvious sensible signals that it is not functioning well. On the other hand, how else are we supposed to know? We indeed don’t want to engage in a plethora of preventive actions for everything and that’s completely right. So far waiting for symptoms is fine, but our answer to them gives a lot of room for criticism and questioning.

Symptom-solving, an omnipresent issue

In most cases indeed, the pain, in itself, is not the problem. It is just a symptom of something going wrong in one’s body or mind. More generally, when a problem occurs, what arises to out senses (often unpleasantly) is symptoms. It is necessary to detect the problem. Nonetheless, there is a sad constant in people that is to just get rid of whatever shows there is a problem, regardless of the problem. That is typically symptom-solving, you would be scared to realise how often we do that. Here are a few example of common inadequate problem-solving cases taken in everyday life:

  • Coffee and Energy Drinks
    Symptoms cleared : tiredness
    Real problem : exhaustion, lack of sleep, anxiety…
    Appropriate Problem Solving : Ask yourself why your are tired, get some sleep.
  • Chewing gums and mints
    Symptoms cleared : bad breath
    Real problem : Oral bacteria
    Appropriate Problem Solving : Brush teeth, use tongue cleaner and mouthwash…
  • Face Make up
    Symptoms cleared : visible acne, face scars…
    Appropriate Problem Solving : Cure acne (itself a symptom not a problem !!! the real problem is excessive sebum secretion, which itself could also be a symptom of stress, itself a symptom of your bad relationship with your boss !)
  • Rushing, last minute
    Symptoms cleared : delay
    Real problem : Lack of organisation or motivation
    Appropriate Problem Solving : Question habits, plan, schedule…

It takes one of those unnatural efforts to really wonder what the real problem is when you could actually just fix the symptoms temporarily. It is not to be mistaken with being lazy, but given only symptoms that are annoying, it is very easy for the mind to think of them as problems, “something you don’t want”. Besides this, another reason why it’s particularly hard to get the mindset of appropriate problem solving is that, very often, it is beneficial in the long-term: It’s a long term way of thinking….Unfortunately most people do unconsciously prefer comfort in the present at the price of long but bearable suffering (symptom-solving) rather than big pain and then long-term comfort (problem-solving). Money loans are a typical expression of this human tendency.

Problem-solving and Innovation

The everyday process of entrepreneurs, researchers, consultants and the alike basically boils down to facing problems and having to solve them. The ability to solve a problem is particularly vital in this field because symptom-solving often results in costly expenses. Let’s say you are a major web-based company and your website is running particularly slowly. You either don’t care what’s the reason and spend twice as much in a more powerful hosting solution, or you fix what was making the website slow and eventually move to a cheaper hosting solution because you don’t need much performance any longer.

Besides cost, another focus should be time efficiency and scalability. Fixing symptoms is an eternal process, especially when your hack introduces new symptoms. Also, symptom fixing prevents scalability in that whatever transformation you make of your system will have to include the fix. Worse, it may require to adapt the fix as well… Such a waste of time and resources.

Human Body : How The Pharmaceutics Industry shortcuts Natural Body Control System

Our lack of lucidity in problem-solving is the gold-mine of the pharmaceutical industry, although a branch of it tries to tackle the problems at the very root instead of old school symptom-curing.

The human body has this very peculiar ability to send alerts to itself. These are receivable through the senses for (I like to believe) you to be aware of the problem and of course do something about it. Most engineers know this functioning as control. When having a precise objective, control is the mere ability to monitor the outcome (output) in real time correct the action (input) based on observation (the difference between objective and observation). A typical control system could be an elevator for example. The speed of the motor (input) could be proportional to the number of stairs to go (difference between objective: desired stair, and action observed: where is the lift now?).
You do control all the time without realising. When you drink your orange juice in the morning: the reason why you get some and without spilling it over is because you do control: the angle of your hand and cup is the input, and the flow of beverage is the output.

Look at the body as a control system now. Most of the time when you don’t feel good or have a big big headache, the core origin is very likely to be psychological, and if not many cases are found to be curable using the power of your mind over yourself. Doing the contrary, if you just ask yourself what’s wrong and focus on good things it doesn’t generate any profit. So instead the industry likes to sell you their complete collection of pain-killers. The pain-killer for colds, the pain-killer for migraines, the pain-killer for when you feel sad, the pain-killer for when you have a headache after reading your pain-killer bill… the stomach pain-killer to ease the stomach-ache caused by the tons of pain-killers you just absorbed, plus the 10 extra drugs to cover the side effects of each type of pain-killer… You see what I mean ? That’s big money ! One typical issue in symptom solving, is that by introducing a solution to a symptom, you introduce other problems, or side effects in the case of drugs. And it sometimes it gets to the ridiculous point where people choose to do nothing about their given problem because each solutions brought more trouble overall than if they do nothing.

More powerful than problem solving, problem avoidance

  • Isn’t back care the best medicine for back problems ?
  • Isn’t sleep the best remedy for tiredness ?
  • Isn’t protection the best cure for AIDS ?
  • Isn’t correct nutrition the best supplement for fat management ?
  • Isn’t good diplomatic relationships and constructive discussion and compromise the best remedy for wars ?and so forth…

Are we truly dumb enough to learn things the hard way when generations and generations have done it before ?

When it comes to personal health, today’s society just does not want to bother about being careful on what they expose themselves to. Look at the proportion of smokers, look at the sports people engaging in extreme activities with little knowledge and preparation, look at the massive amount of commonly tolerated junk foods and beverages…Once more, all this is a direct consequence of our inability to weight to harmfulness of things when they don’t impact us in the short-term. The underlying thinking process being that whatever happens (shall they believe that something bad will happen), they’ll just have to take the appropriate pain-killer…

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