Love in Problem-Solving: Raising the Level of Abstraction to Get to Liberty

“Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.”  —Benjamin Franklin


Fear and Loathing in the Bureaucratic System

A system overladen with rules—of both the prescriptive and proscriptive varieties—creates much in the way of fear, which is the opposite of love.  Whether it be a corporate structure or a government bureaucracy, the liberal application of rules that dictate heavy-handed enforcement of behavioral parameters for getting things done will always fail.  This failure will be due to the fear that is caused by going “outside the lines” to come up with solutions.  Creativity is frowned upon in such a culture, and even the suggestion that a line be crossed might imply a politically-incorrect disregard for the rules.  So people shut up and try to work within the confines of the strait jackets they have been forced to wear.  They grin and bear it, for there is no joy in Mudville.  (To go outside the lines, here and now, read the true meaning of the phrase “no joy in Mudville” in Casey at the Bat.)


Love and Creativity

In order to get more useful problem-solving, overly-burdensome rules and too-stringent dictates must be gotten rid of.  And these must be replaced with general principles that offer the advantage of facilitating problem-solving without micro-managing.  Allow people to brainstorm creatively, without their ideas being judged.  Encourage people to think “outside the box,” so to speak, by allowing the blurring of lines whenever doing so might solve more problems than are created by doing so.


Raising the Level of Abstraction for Better Problem-Solving

It is not only amateurish, but counterproductive, for a salesperson to believe that his real job is to sell things.  A professional salesperson sees it all differently; he knows for a fact that his true vocation is not selling things at all, but finding and generating solutions.  This is an example of what is known as raising the level of abstraction in how people define their roles.  Any business owner or government bureau chief who disables his employees by over-specifying their true roles will fail.

Starbucks refers to all who visit their stores as “guests”—and not as “customers.”  This is key, for it transforms the role of their employees and allows them to say “yes” more often to the needs of patrons, thereby generating more solutions and more repeat-business.  For example, if someone who enters Starbucks is a guest, his request to use the restroom—even if he is not buying anything—must be granted, because restroom use is a privilege of all guests.  If the coffee shop next door allows all customers to use the restrooms, this means that one must be engaged in commerce to be eligible for the same benefit.


Getting to Yes and Feeling the Love

CapitalismThe fact that Starbucks, by its “guest rule,” empowers itself to extend their restrooms to non-paying visitants, means that Starbucks will get to say yes to its callers sooner and more frequently than its competition does.  Getting to yes sooner is important, because the next time that restroom-using visitor wants a cup of coffee, he is more likely to choose the place where he knows he can find kindness.  Starbucks is in the business of solving problems, not selling coffee.  Or, to raise the level of abstraction a little bit more, it might be said that Starbucks is in the business of being kind to people.  Because the people at Starbucks solve problems, or perhaps because they are kind, their patrons are feeling the love both sooner and more often, when compared to Starbucks’ competition.  In a competitive world, this is a lesson worth learning.


More Problem-Solving, More Love; Less Problem-Solving, More Fear

This is why free markets are so important.  When problem-solving occurs in a freedom-based system, the creative energies of problem-solvers are freed up to help people find the best solutions at the lowest costs.  There is more problem-solving in environments with fewer rules and as few guidelines as possible to facilitate the culture of problem-solving.

Government-supported monopolies, on the other hand, tend to be rule-laden and expensive.  There is no ability to go outside government-mandated guidelines and little creativity allowed in the problem-solving.  Also, an agency such as the Internal Revenue Service—with its 70,000 pages of tax rules that are expensive and punitive to break—causes great fear in the populace.  There is a massive amount of rules, and no creativity allowed in how to apply those rules.  The government does not have to solve its patrons’ problems, because it has no competition.  If there are too many rules, and too much fear as a result, why should the government care?  In the end, there is very little love when there are too many overly-specific rules, no raised level of abstraction or freedom in how to apply them, and no competition to drive quality up and costs down.  And, without creating more options and lower expenditures, that could be compared, according to personal need, the sense of having one’s needs met—in other words, feelings of love and security—are lacking.  The way to ameliorate this issue is to bust trusts and monopolies, as well as  to downsize government and its role.


Rules at the Highest Levels Should Be More Abstract & Facilitative

The highest-level decision-makers in business and in government should base their operations on rules that are few and principle-oriented; this allows managers “on the ground” the flexibility to make the more specific decisions with regard to rules and problem-solving procedures in their local stores and bureaus.  A Wal-Mart in China wants to sell frogs, while a Wal-Mart in Houston wants to stocks guns and ammo; both stores are allowed to decide in their own markets what to put on their shelves. Government at the national level should likewise be limited in the extent and scope of its powers, in order to give decision-makers in the sovereign states who are closer to the problems of their citizens more power to problem-solve at the state level; and, likewise, states should be less specific and more abstract in their prescriptions than counties and townships.

At the highest levels, fewer rules are what is needed.  This facilitates more problem-solving downline, which results in more love and caring being brought into the human equation.  More freedom in problem-solving creates more love and better, more satisfying, outcomes for all.  When the opposite becomes true, when too many rules are created and people are hamstrung in their ability to problem-solve, the problems multiply and so do bad outcomes.  Fear is created.  This is the nature of tyranny, for little in the way of freedom or kindness is created out of the culture of overweening rules-generation.  To facilitate a more loving country, we need the highest levels of abstraction possible in rule-making, as well as problem-solving with the most freedom possible.

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