Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Using Aristotle's teachings to solve problems

Consistency is the key to clear thinking. Aristotle wrote about the principles of reality in the year 345 B.C. In our days, his conclusions still remain fully applicable. What is even better, Aristotle's teachings can be summarized in a single sentence: “Identity and causality rule the world.”

There is no way of escaping these two principles. They apply to everything we do, to our perceptions and to our thinking. When we make mistakes, the reason always lies in our attempt to breach one of these two fundamental truths.

  • A breach of the rule of identity occurs when we perceive qualities that do not exist in reality. How often do we assess too quickly a person, an object, or a situation, only to realize later how flawed our initial perception was? Exaggerating problems for emotional reasons, an all too common phenomenon, is the quintessential breach of the principle of identity.

  • Causality is simply identity in motion. If we assume wrongly that human beings possess no capacity to think, we won't be able to understand what people do everyday. Failing to identify the true characteristics of an individual makes impossible to predict how that person will act in the future.

Our understanding of the rules of identity and causality determines the success of our private and professional endeavours. Acting in breach of any of these two principles is a sure way to financial losses and personal tragedy. In business, those who strive to respect these two principles will be rewarded with efficiency, progress, and innovation.

Ignoring the characteristics of human beings, their identity, is tantamount to blinding our eyes. Anger, depression, and business failure are often the result of such attempts. Imagine for instance a situation when a manager realizes that the quality of the services rendered by his employees is erratic and unpredictable. How can he apply Aristotle's rules to solve the problem?

A wrong approach would be to choose a rigid quality control system and implement it immediately across the board. Since the manager has not bothered to study his problem and identify the cause of the erratic quality, the new control system will do little good. Instead, it is likely to alienate employees and slow down operations.

The Aristotelian method demands a rational assessment of the facts. Are we using the right materials? Is every member of the team well trained to do his work? Do we have a compensation system in place to align the interests of the individuals with the goals of the company? Should we improve our processes? Are we using the most efficient technology?

Nobody is able to figure out the right answers every time, but if you use the proper methodology, mistakes will be self-correcting. The principles of identity and causality offer us a proven system for reaching accurate conclusions. Use the Aristotelian way of thinking to your advantage and you will achieve your goals twice as fast.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Leo-setä under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]