Considering the South Carolina Senate’s vote to attempt reform of Santee Cooper, it was interesting to see a human nature news story this past week. The article cites a study and book that says when people face a dilemma, they typically heap on solutions rather than simplify their way to an elegant resolution.
People add complexity rather than draw a straight line to a conclusion.
Sounds eerily familiar in South Carolina right now.
Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less is the book that describes this human nature quirk. People do the opposite of this: “Try less before more. Subtract details before you act with triage,” says the book.
Another way I see it: Don’t try to act as an all-knowing hero when there are others who can better manage an issue. Get expert help instead.
The study that prompts the book is, People systematically overlook subtractive changes.
It takes a bit of extra analysis to find the elegant and useful subtractive solution. We are not wired for subtraction but are for addition. So, for instance, in investing we look at what stock to buy and make a gain rather than what to sell to reduce a risk of loss. That is exactly what the Senate did in South Carolina this past week.
With South Carolina, the extra analysis was already done early on with the report about a sale or reform, but it was ignored. That good work is down the drain. That investment gone. Good money from customers will now go after bad.
South Carolina voted to be a smaller U.S. state that opts for larger government. It added complexity – layers and time and money – to watch over something that could have been delegated to well-tested experts.
In addition to the book about managing subtraction, perhaps South Carolina policymakers might read another classic, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. That book says, “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.”
South Carolina’s clutter hasn’t been solved, it is just out of sight for a while and still nipping at policymakers’ heels.