Why do people like to solve long-term problems with short-term solutions?
Many people solve issues in their lives with patchwork, and are unable to or don't want to see the long term ramifications of their often short sighted actions. (Tragedy of the commons, unsustainable living, drinking in excess to overcome emotional problems, smoking to feel as if they have more control over their lives, etc) I recognize we are biologically wired to respond faster to short term solutions regardless of quality, so maybe my question is more 'how can we change this?'
Short reason for individuals?
- We are both rational and emotional.
- We aren't always good at controlling our emotional desires.
- Cultural and social influences. Unfortunately, we sometimes follow the herd or rationalize our behavior with herd behavior. For instance, there are some interesting correlations regarding groups & the behavior of groups (although my guess is the results might turn of different for behavior that is done in groups versus the behavior which is done typically alone)
Short reason for organizations?
- Fear/lack of courage
- Lack of sacrifice
- Distraction (or lost in the noise)
- Perceived zero sum resource budgets
- Its not always easy to quantify or compare problems or payoff (ROI) in budgeting before taking action
How can we change this?
- Change our habits (generally baby steps)
- Change our environments (remove your choice or encourage positive choices)
- Change the incentives (ie rewards)
- Summon the willpower
- Use both type I and type 2 brain. (say the behavior economists)
- To learn more I would suggest reading one or more of the following: Chip & Dan Heaths book Switch talks about this on the individual level (although does recommend Positive Deviance as a method to deal with it collectively). In a more societal context, the book Nudge by Thayler & Sunstein discusses it.
- My guess is there are other authors who specifically deal with tragedy of the commons issues along with prisoners dilemma situations--particularly in the context of public policy. Nudge in particular seems to provide some initial answers.