Posted by: righthandblink | May 24, 2016

Ask the Right Questions

Ask the Right Questions
It’s all about doing your Due Diligence

What is Due Diligence?
You probably already know about due diligence. You can see its application in
real estate. You want to buy a house, but you don’t want to make the wrong choice or get stuck with a lemon. So you do some research. You hire a home inspector to check out all the physical aspects of the house. What is good and what needs replacing, and when. You will also hire a lawyer to check out everything legally, like the people you are buying the house from actually own the house, that the taxes and utilities have been paid and are up to date. That’s called doing your “due diligence.”

Well, due diligence actually applies to everything we do in life. Granted, as we get older we have the wisdom that we have gained through experience and a lot of bad decisions, such that as we get wiser, the amount of time we spend on due diligence gets shorter, and probably more accurate. Sometimes it is a pain in the neck to do the due diligence because we just want to go ahead and do it. But you remember all those emotional impulsive decisions that you made once, and lived to regret. We say that we don’t care if it is right or wrong, but we will care when we have to cope with the consequences. If we’re lucky, it will turn out alright. Ask yourself a question: Is your due diligence, just like flipping a coin? If it is, then isn’t that a lot like gambling?

So make a note of the following:
If you are going to do something but you don’t know if it is right or wrong, then don’t do it. Because if you do, no matter what, you’ll be doing it for the wrong reason. Always do your due diligence first.

And when you use due diligence to solve a problem, the first thing you want to do is define what the “Real Problem” is. We are going to look at two examples:

FIRST EXAMPLE
A presentation on TED by Jane Chen on her new product ‘Embrace’, a low-cost infant warmer.

Chen’s concern was about all the babies that were born in India and died, especially premature babies, or premies, as a result of there not being enough incubators. Incubators are very expensive so she designed this special wrap-around blanket that could perform the same function as an incubator but at a fraction of the cost, US$25.

I was really impressed with what this young girl had done but something bothered me about it. For a while I couldn’t put my finger on it. I ended up realizing that in spite of her good intentions, Chen wasn’t solving the problem, she was actually making it worse, magnifying it. It’s unsustainable, and sooner or later, something is going to happen to fix the problem, and, believe me, none of us want to look at or understand what that is going to be.

I’m not a bad person and I love babies just as much as the next person. Thermo-regulation is only one component of the challenges that premature babies face, especially in India. There was no thought given to what would happen next after stabilizing the temperature.

What she had unintentionally done was to give credence to those people and allowed them to believe that it was alright to continue getting pregnant and producing more and more children in a world where our population is growing at an exponential rate and is the biggest contribution to climate change and greenhouse gas production on this planet.

Chen hadn’t completed her due diligence and determined what the real problem was. And that is very unfortunate.

SECOND EXAMPLE
The Ottawa School Breakfast program

There was an article in the Ottawa Metro News on October 23, 2015 titled “School breakfast program turn 25.” The program was started in 1990 when teachers and school staff were noticing that lots of kids came to school hungry. The effort began in 1990 in 25 schools serving 1,000 students and now operates in 175 Ottawa schools, serving 13,500 students.

The teachers and school staff originally started providing food out of their own homes but that no longer provides sufficiently for the program. It has became unsustainable. The only way this program is able to continue is with special fund-raising events.

In an era where sustainable is ubiquitous, does it not seem strange that we continue to develop programs that end up being unsustainable. It would be appropriate for the Breakfast Program to be financed and paid for by the parents of the children being fed. Easy enough, but the far greater problem is why are there twenty-seven (27) food banks in Ottawa?

Which Charity to Donate to?

Once someone told me that the way to pick a charity to donate to, is to find out how much of their donations actually go to the ones they are trying to help. Not bad. But that can be misleading for charities can be classified into two types: one that just helps people who are in need, maybe the victims of a flood, and the other, who identifies a problem in society, then decide to go out and solve it.

Any charity or non-profit that is established to combat a problem, should first take the time to determine what the actual problem is. Such that, once that problem is solved, then that charity or non-profit is no longer required. Then, and only then, will we have solved a problem. If that isn’t done, whatever program that is put in place will end up being just magnifying the problem, with it getting bigger and bigger. That is unsustainable.

If a charity has existed for many years and doesn’t solve the problem that they were originally designed to solve, then they didn’t choose the right problem to solve in the first place. They should re-evaluate its objectives and goals.

What are we doing wrong?

In both cases those involved at the beginning just saw “a problem” and took it upon themselves to do something about it. Commendable. If they would have taken the time and asked the right questions they may have taken a different path.

What they did shouldn’t surprise us. When anybody attempts to solve a problem today, their first instinct is to throw money at it. Being in a capitalistic society, we have been conditioned to know that if we throw enough money at a problem, it will go away. The governments keep throwing money at problems. But we have found historically that this type of solution doesn’t work.

Problems that can be solved with money aren’t problems;
True problems are ones that cannot be solved with money.

 

The success of any project is always based on what kind of results are forecast as compared to what kind of results are attained. From the perspective of making sure that nobody goes hungry at school, the program could originally be considered a success. However, we have to ask what the impact of the project was on the problem: whether the program eliminated the problem or did it change it in any way? Matter-of-fact, the program just ended up getting bigger and bigger, with the end result being that the problem was never solved. So then we have to conclude that the focus of the program was incorrect and there was an error in identifying the original problem.

Now we should apply our due diligence experience to solving the climate change problem. If we as the right questions we will probably get a lot of answers that we may not like. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that if we apply those answers, then we will solve the problem.

§ § §

 

Renewable, Green and Healthy . . . for a Sustainable Tomorrow!
© 2016, Right Hand Blink

 

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