As we think about the problems we face today it becomes readily evident that the majority of these problems are the direct result of yesterday’s solutions. If we desire to enable a better tomorrow, the foundation of that tomorrow must be the development of a viable approach for dealing with situations. We need an approach which actually addresses the situation while minimizing the likelihood of making the situation worse or creating new problems that we will have to address in the future. The foundation of this approach, as with all real progress, is learning. This article presents a model for the requisite learning.
Over the years numerous new approaches to problem solving have been developed and promoted. Some of these were turned into fads and readily adopted by many. The fads were not well founded and in time proved not to deliver the expected results. When the expected results were not delivered the fads were discarded in favor of the next fad. As Michael McGill  points out, the real difficulty lies in a flawed mental model under which both the promoters and the adopters operate. That flawed mental model being their belief that there should exist a quick fix.
In contrast, well-grounded and proven approaches to problem solving have not been widely adopted. Those with flawed mental models consider the proven approaches to be too complicated or time consuming. The quest for the ever elusive quick fix condemns us to repeatedly solving the new problems created by the quick fix. This is the type of result expected from operating with flawed mental models [Senge, 1990] We must realize the quick fix is a mirage and invest the time to learn the proven methods and create sound solutions.
Whether we’re considering a problem, a situation, an objective, or a desire, the underlying essence of the manner in which we proceed to deal with it is essentially the same.
Given a situation that we consider warrants attention we first need to develop an understanding. An understanding that will enable us to develop a strategy which actually improves the situation while minimizing unintended consequences. Our desire to minimize unintended consequences is based on our experiences. We have learned that unintended consequences typically make the initial situation worse or end up creating new problems that we ourselves or others have to figure out how to deal with. A well-crafted strategy well executed can serve to minimize unintended consequences; although whatever unintended consequences still arise are likely to make the situation worse or result in new problems. The total elimination of unintended consequences is generally impossible.
Whether we realize it or not Fig. 1 can be applied to just about everything that happens in our lives. Even when we don’t consciously think about it the interactions depicted in Fig. 1 are operating. The extent to which people consciously think about these relations varies. Some people think about the implication of their actions and stop there. And some people think about the implications of implications of implications. They do this because they understand that things are highly interconnected and the implications are difficult to foresee.
Given the realization that there is an underlying set of interactions as depicted in Fig. 1 which is essentially the foundation of all our endeavors, seeking a deeper awareness of how we develop the requisite understanding would seem a sensible undertaking. An introduction to developing this understanding is depicted in Fig. 2.
If we are to evolve beyond the Pogo predicament, “We have met the enemy and he is us” [Kelly, 1970] it is essential we embrace learning and become far more adept at developing truly viable approaches for dealing with situations. And attempting to deal with situations without the requisite level of understanding has repeatedly proven to be little more than meddling which makes the situation worse or creates new problems that have to be dealt with. There are well defined proven approaches for developing each aspect of the model presented in Fig. 2. [Bellinger, 2012] These can be explored in more detail in the videos on the Systems Thinking World Wiki.