Working Backwards To Move Forwards

Sometimes, we have to reverse engineer a problem to find the right solution. In other words, we have to work backwards, looking at cause and effect, to find the source of a problem, which may not always be quite as obvious as it at first appears.

In solving ecological problems on a broad scale, and even the problematic issues in an individual garden, working methodically backwards to trace the source of a problem can help us see how best to solve a particular issue.

For example, we might note that a particular area becomes waterlogged or flooded in wet weather. And we might be able to trace the root of the problem to a neighbour chopping down some trees, a clogged irrigation ditch – or even something more complex higher on a watershed – which the introduction of beavers and other ecosystem engineers might solve. Even when there is a whole string of causes, tracing each one back methodically to its root cause can help us find the right path.

The same thing is true of societal issues. Just like ecological systems, societal systems are complex, with a huge web of interconnections. We can say C happens because B, and then trace that back further and say B happens because A.

So every time you encounter a particular problem – in your environment, or in the society around you, or in your business, try to work back through chains of cause and effect one at a time. By working your way through complex systems in this way, you can often find yourself a lot closer to sustainable solutions.

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