One bag of chips full of saturated fats and beer might taste delicious and won’t kill you immediately, but repeating it over the years will likely deteriorate your health. And that’s the problem because the relationship between the action and the effect is not immediately obvious. It takes time for the effect to become visible, and when it does, it is harder (if not impossible) to make a change. It’s the same with other complex systems, such as climate, society and even business.
There’s a lesson for people who design and build things. Oftentimes, we’re obsessed with quick fixes and short-term thinking. We value speed and delivery. We’re craving for finite answers and do not spend enough time with questions. We’re jumping into solutions too quickly and taking research too lightly. We’re making decisions based on assumptions. We are optimizing fragments rather than systems. We’re not considering (unintended) consequences and future impact. We like to fail fast and break things, and we successfully break them.
This is the same unhealthy behavior as eating saturated fats. None of these actions alone will kill us immediately and things might seem to be working fine every time. But soon, accumulated effects of our decisions become palpable, and a crisis emerges. Our unhealthy actions today become problems tomorrow to which we apply quick fixes. And the cycle continues until it’s too late.
To have healthy, vital bodies, businesses or society, we need to adopt healthy habits and healthy behavior. Short-termism is rarely healthy.
Now that I wrote this, I’m going to have a bar of chocolate. Just this one time.