Prevention Paradox

Soyer 2022

Some problems need to be solved. Somebody promptly sees them and solves them after they occur. Great!

Some problems, however, need to be prevented. They are simply too costly to be solved after they occur. Ideally, somebody has to detect such a problem before it causes any trouble and prevent it.

Let’s say they do prevent it. Great!

But because it was prevented, now we don’t experience that problem. So, it becomes easy to underestimate the consequences and spend less effort to prevent it. Some might not even recognize the existence of the problem, seen that it didn’t happen.

And because preventions are not nearly as visible as solutions, they are not as incentivized or rewarded, and we probably don’t get as many preventions as we need. So, we end up facing some of the preventable problems that we wouldn’t like to face.

As a result of all of these, certain catastrophic events become more likely to occur!

The main solution here is to reveal and reward preventive approaches especially when there’s a lot at stake. Here are some prevention-centered questions to consider:

  • What’s a problem that you have prevented?
  • Have you talked about it to your colleagues and bosses?
  • What did they say or do?
  • What problem around you needs to be prevented?
  • Is there anyone working to prevent it?
  • Can you make their efforts more visible?

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behavioral scientist, co-author of The Myth of Experience

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Emre Soyer

Emre Soyer

behavioral scientist, co-author of The Myth of Experience

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