Systemic Causes of Societal Problems

Rob Paterson, on PEI, writes about the systemic problems facing island society, in a letter to the Provincial government. “When a business is in real trouble, it is because it has a systemic problem. Trimming here and there will not save it. So it is with us. Prince Edward Island has a structural problem related not to its physical assets but to its human capital.”

This letter is worth the read, as Rob’s view is that the root causes of complex problems cannot be addressed by focusing on the symptoms. This is also the view of human performance technologists. Rob’s points are pertinent to one of my projects, where we are making recommendations on how to grow the New Brunswick learning industry. Our key for sustainable development is to find out what is at the root of the problem/challenge. For PEI, Rob says that many children are already challenged before they enter school, because learning and literacy skills are developed prior to age four. All of the interventions to develop literacy and learning skills after this age are treating the symptoms, not the root cause of the problem.

This is the same kind of root cause that I am looking for. What are the core components of an industry that will ensure sustainable growth? Is it infrastructure, government policy, access to capital, R&D, marketing & branding, an educated workforce, etc.? My suspicion is that the basics are the most important part. For instance, I moved to Sackville because there is a university, a local hospital, a good elementary school and cheap housing. I have stayed here because of high-speed internet access and two relatively close airports.

Are there basics that need to be addressed in order to grow an industry? In the case of PEI, Rob makes the point that early childhood interventions are critical for a sustainable society. Are there other pieces of the puzzle critical to grow a small industry, or should we focus on the region or province instead, and let industries grow in what we have cultivated? This is one of my current challenges, and I would appreciate any feedback.

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