Source: Continuous Improvement Associates

Social Issues
Addiction and The Crisis Syndrome
By Bob Powell, 1/16/02

The same structure that drives humans into addiction, also drives businesses into short-term thinking and the "quick fix." In my view this is the greatest challenge humans face, both individually and as a species ... with denial of global warming being the most dangerous.

The Crisis Syndrome: The generic structures that trap us in short-term, instead of long-term, thinking. (258K)

Escaping The Crisis Syndrome: how to move from the short-term quick fix, to long term improvement. This paper describes Scott Peck’s four basic techniques of discipline and their systems thinking parallels. They are delaying gratification, assumption of responsibility, dedication to the truth or reality, and balancing (the most difficult). (133K)

Crisis Syndrome Recovery: specific approaches for individuals & organizations to move to a long term focus. For every approach to overcome individual addiction there is a parallel organizational approach to overcoming the quick fix. Organizations need rehab as much as humans. (140K)

Syndromes, Characteristics & Processes of Addiction in Organizations (67K)

The causal loop diagram below is from The Crisis Syndrome. It shows how 3 systems thinking archetypes gang up to drive individuals into a downward addictive spiral of behavior. The archetypes: Fix that Fails, Shifting the Burden, and Eroding Goals.

In combination they form an overwhelmingly powerful structure that represents, in my opinion, the greatest challenge we face as humans.

The structure of individual addiction to drugs

The causal loop diagram below illustrates the entirely parallel structure that drives organizations to implement quick fixes rather than fundamental solutions.

the structure of organizational addiction to the "quick fix"

Note that Figure 2 below in The Crisis Syndrome shows the combination of a Fix that Fails and a balancing decay loop that could very well be identified as a basic Archetype: Addiction.

Credit for this archetype and getting me started on this examination goes to Donella H. Meadows (1982), 'Whole Earth Models & Systems', Coevolution Quarterly, Summer, pp. 98-108; see Figure 5. Addiction. Also found in Modelling for management : simulation in support of systems thinking, Volume I, edited by George P. Richardson (1996). pp. 153-163.

The Addiction Archetype

For a more thorough treatment, see the paper on When Archetypes Gang Up. A larger set of diagrams only here.

PS. For those who use system dynamics conventions instead of systems thinking notation, I know, I know. I use S/O on this site instead of +/-. I hope you can cope.

Added 10/27/09: Hijacking the Brain Circuits With a Nickel Slot Machine By SANDRA BLAKESLEE 2/19/02

... in a finding that astonishes many people, they found that the brain systems that detect and evaluate such rewards generally operate outside of conscious awareness. In navigating the world and deciding what is rewarding, humans are closer to zombies than sentient beings much of the time.

© 2003 Continuous Improvement Associates

Top of Page