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Posts Tagged ‘Root cause’

Solution to low public transportation utilization

From Mobility for the Poor: Car-Sharing, Car Loans, and the Limits of Public Transit by Jeff Khau.  An example of the importance of establishing the difference between correlation and causation; of the importance of directionality of causation; of context; of root cause analysis; and goal definition.

Theoretically, one can look at this graph and legitimately make the argument that in order to increase public utilization of public transportation, one ought to increase the average commute time.  It is a good exercise in critical thinking to spot the fallacy of such an interpretation.

I ought to have eaten a pretzel in the first place!

From Fables and Fairy Tales by Leo Tolstoy, page 37.  An example of the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc, combined with the availability heuristic.

Three Rolls a Pretzel

Feeling hungry one day, a peasant bought himself a large roll and ate it. But he was still hungry, so he bought another roll and ate it. Still hungry he bought a third roll and ate it. When the three rolls failed to satisfy his hunger, he bought some pretzels. After eating one pretzel he no longer felt hungry.

Suddenly he clapped his hand to his head and cried:
“What a fool I am! Why did I waste all those rolls? I ought to have eaten a pretzel in the first place!”

Taking the last link in the chain of events and stopping there invites misdiagnosis of a situation.  It is not uncommon that a team will seize on the most recent cause as the most obvious cause, will already be halfway towards solving the problem (“Always stick with pretzels”) and won’t want to go back and look at root causes.

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