My last blog post written on the 1st of October ended with a prayer for Nigeria on the 60th anniversary of her independence from the United Kingdom.
If only I knew what was going to follow just a few weeks after.The last week has been an emotional roller coaster for most Nigerians both home and abroad .
It started with the #endsars movement which were a series of peaceful protests organised by Nigerian youth to call for an end to police brutality often perpetrated by this specialist arm of the Nigerian police force.
It soon descended into chaos with the shooting of some protesters by ‘unknown forces’. What soon followed was looting,violence,destruction of private & government property.
There was also the very eerie and odd denial by the government of what has now been aptly named the Lekki Massacre. It’s exactly one week today and I pray for comfort for everyone who might have lost loved ones.
It’s been really full on in 2020 hasn’t it?I must admit that it’s taken a lot for me to get myself out of the sadness I felt quite deeply last week.I know most immigrants can relate to this but no matter where you live,a piece of your heart always resides at ‘home’. And for me,’home’ will always be Nigeria.I guess the saying ‘home is where the heart is’ is not that cliche after all.
In all of the ensuing conversations,debates (and even arguments)that have followed ,I have been reflecting on a number of things.
And one thing that has really stuck with me is how easy it for most people to look at complex problems on a very surface level. A lot of times we oversimplify the solutions to a lot of problems because we neglect looking at the root causes and spend a lot of time treating the symptoms.
Problems are often highlighted by symptoms which often manifest in various ways. And a lot of times,we often jump straight to solutions when we are not even sure of what the real problem is.
I will illustrate this concept with my physiological response to all of the unrest in the last week.By Friday morning, I realised that my body and mind were not functioning optimally and I was feeling really drained. I popped a couple of paracetamols,drank some coffee (I am not a coffee gal)and was able to power through my day as I had quite a lot going on at work.
But the truth is me not functioning optimally was just a symptom of a much deeper issue .The paracetamol and coffee though helpful would never have been a long term solution to the problem.They were both just fixes.
And fixes only help temporarily as they treat the symptoms and not the real cause of an issue. To solve the problem in the long term I would need to spend some time analysing and defining what the root cause of the issue really was.
One of my favourite problem solving techniques is called the ‘5 Whys’. It is a technique that was popularised by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries in the 1930’s and became widely used in the 1970’s.
I say favourite in professional settings but believe me when I say I groan when my children use this technique on me.Any parent will know that ‘5 why’s’ is really just a start when trying to get children to do anything.Sometimes I get 7 whys in a row for just 1 simple instruction
Me -“You need to lay your bed and pick your clothes off the floor”
Child – “But why mum?”
The ‘5 Why’s’ is a simple yet powerful tool that allows us to dig deeper to the root cause of a problem.
I will apply this technique to the problem described above which was me not feeling great and going about my day not feeling a hundred percent.
Problem – I was not functioning optimally
1. Why was I not functioning optimally – My head was pounding due to a massive headache
2. Why was my head pounding? – I hadn’t been getting enough sleep for a couple of nights
3. Why had I not been getting enough sleep? – My mind and body was hyper alert due to all of the stimulus & traumatising information I was exposing myself to
4. Why was my mind hyper alert? – I had been spending more time than usual on social media,watching the news,tweeting and getting agitated about the ongoing situation in Nigeria
5. Why I was I spending more time than usual on social media? – I wanted to follow all that was happening and following all that was happening was actually making me more distraught.
And I could go on and on. Sometimes you might need to go further than ‘5 why’s to get to the root cause of an issue .
The ‘5 Whys’ in this case brought me to the root cause of my problem – All of the information I was digesting was affecting me physiologically .
Far cry from the headache isn’t it ?The real solution to the problem was not me popping more paracetamol or even just saying ‘I need to sleep more’ but trying to address the real reason why I wasn’t sleeping.
I won’t bore you any further with all I needed to do address this (which included a social media break)but please don’t worry about me,I am feeling much better as I type this.
My point though is,we often stop at the 1st or 2nd ‘why’ when trying to solve complex problems. Stopping at the 2nd ‘why’ would have given me paracetamol as the solution.
It is often easier to treat the symptoms and move on. Taking the time to actually look at what might actually be the root cause of the problem often seems tedious and so we apply fix after fix and then wonder why the problem keeps reoccurring.
A lot of the things that have manifested in Nigeria over the last couple of weeks are symptoms of much deeper issues and for us to begin to even scratch at the surface of solving some of them ,we need to do the long hard work of looking at analysing what the root causes are.
We already know what some of these root causes are but we also need to acknowledge that the solutions are also not going to be as simple as just popping a few pieces of paracetamol.
We need to be ready to dig deep! And after digging deep,we need to commit to challenging the status quo,iterating and adapting solutions as we uncover them and as they evolve. All of this takes time,energy and will most likely involve some sort of sacrifice.
I ended my last blog post with a prayer for Nigeria to become a nation of people with vision,purpose and integrity. I end this post with a slight adaptation of that prayer; which is a prayer for a crop of leaders who are willing to commit to digging deeper and not settle for surface level fixes to deep rooted complex problems.
If you have been affected like I was please do take time out to do what you need to do to find some joy. We can’t pour out or solve problems when we are not at our healthiest physically and mentally.
As usual thank you so much for reading and would really love to hear your thoughts as well. So please do comment share and will be looking forward to discussions both here and on all of my social media platforms.
Heres wishing you a lovely Tuesday and week ahead!