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Why it is difficult to solve Zimbabwe’s economic challenges

The great scientist Albert Einstein warned that problems cannot be solved while thinking at the level at which they are created.

Sunday Opinion with Simon Bere

This profound truth is recited many times from many expert and leadership pulpits, quoted in many books and publications and parroted in many situations and conversations to the point that the saying has become just another cliché.

The whole world seems to have chosen to ignore the deeply penetrating truth of Einstein’s observation, but again, this is forgivable because it is human nature never to want to think deep into things.

But what Einstein was saying is not just a mere mentally stimulating quotation from a genius, but a really solid fact that carries the DNA for solving all problems that require human thinking to solve. All economic problems, including Zimbabwe’s economic challenges, are not immune to Einstein’s observation on problem solving.

Some people, especially some business, economic and political leaders the world over, feel insulted when they hear Einstein’s truth.

They immediately take it to mean that Einstein means that the leaders led their businesses or economies into challenges because they were thinking at low levels and the fact that they are failing to solve the problems means that they have some thinking deficiency. This is far from what Einstein meant.

Then there are also some who are open-minded enough to acknowledge Einstein’s observation, but the problem is they probably do not fully understand what Einstein meant so they cannot practically use Einstein’s wisdom to solve the problems that they could easily solve.

For those who feel insulted by Einstein’s observation, I suggest that, hard as it may be to admit it, it is a healthy position to accept the reality, that being a leader does not mean that one knows it all and is therefore above misjudgement and error.

This means that in the process of leadership, leaders must, especially when they are leading at high levels where goals are complex; accept that they can — without their conscious will — lead their organisations or economies into difficulty and challenging situations.

They must also accept that when failure comes, they need to expect some of their followers to blame the failure of their businesses and economies on them. Refusing to accept responsibility for failure and not tolerating people who blame them for failure puts leaders completely out of control of the situation and makes things worse instead of better.

Einstein’s proposition does not insinuate any intellectual insult on anyone, but only that every problem requires the application of a certain level of thinking to solve and that level must be higher than the level at which the problem was created. By levels of thinking, he meant real physical levels of thinking and not meaning that lower levels of thinking are in any way inferior.

Take it this way; if you have a 10-metre-tall orange tree and all the oranges that remain are nine metres high up the tree, you cannot expect to stand on the ground on your feet and stretch your hands and pluck them just like that.

Yes, you can try shaking up the tree and the oranges may fall, but still the force from your shaking must reach the orange for it to fall. Yes, you can cut the tree so that the tree will fall, but again the whole idea is making sure that you are at the level at which you can touch the orange and pluck it.

The two most reasonable solutions for getting to the orange intelligently are either climbing up the tree to a level at which you can touch the orange, or getting a long lever with which to pluck or poke the orange from the tree. I suspect this is what Einstein meant when he talked about thinking at the higher levels to solve a problem.

How does this apply to solving problems confronting Zimbabwe’s economy? The fact that Zimbabwe’s problem has persisted and the situation is still worsening simply means that Zimbabwe still has not found the real solution to its economic problems. The right solution that will effectively solve the economic challenges is like a combination of the right door and the correct key that one must have in order to escape from a situation in which the person is trapped in a bolted enclosure.

Take the various possible economic solutions as doors with only one being the real economic solution and the following questions arise for Zimbabwe’s economy?

Is the real escape door for Zimbabwe’s economy known for sure at this moment in time?

If the only real escape door for Zimbabwe’s economy has been found, has the keyhole been studied so that the right key that opens that door can be determined?

Has the right key to the only real escape door for Zimbabwe’s economy been found as yet?

If the right key to the only real escape door is known, does Zimbabwe know where or how to get the key?

Here is the point. There are only four door-key combinations and only best combination, one bad combination and two average combinations. The best combination to solving any problem is having both the right door and the right key. The worst situation is having both the wrong door and the wrong key.

The second best option is having the correct door even if the correct key may not yet be known or available. The third best option is not knowing the correct door and doing trial and error with any key you can lay your hands on hoping that one of the keys will open the correct door by coincidence.

Applying Einstein’s levels of thinking, it may be important to ask the following higher order questions regarding Zimbabwe’s economic problem:

Is Zimbabwe’s real economic situation understood at a deeper level than the usual conventional economic levels?

Is the correct escape door really known and is the configuration of its keyhole well-mapped?

Is the correct key to the correct escape door known?
Is the escape destination known?

lIs the path from the now to the escape destination known?
Even if the world paid heed to Einstein’s wisdom, many problems would still arise, but most problems would be prevented and many others of the world’s problems would be quickly solved.

First, contrary to Einstein’s advice that complex problems are solved by thinking, the world now thinks that knowledge is what solves all problems. Today when people are looking for problem solvers, they are looking only for people with subject knowledge, believing that what is required to solve every problem is subject matter knowledge, experience and expertise, without ever thinking of the capacity. This is a huge mistake.

Second, Einstein said in solving problems he would spend most of his time trying to understand the problem and only a small fraction of the time actually developing a solution to the problem.

The world however, is doing completely the opposite, spending very little, if any time, trying to understand problems. All the time is spent trying to fix the problem by trial and error or through passive miracles. This is suicidal.

Einstein said things must be made simple but not simpler and the world goes on complicating everything and therefore adding other layers of problems to be solved. This is fatal.

These are some of the reasons why it is difficult to solve Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.

4 Responses to Why it is difficult to solve Zimbabwe’s economic challenges

  1. chiremba wemberengwa October 19, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    This is refreshing reading about a genius gone by. Zimbabwe’s economic problems are however very well understood even by those who have presided over its collapse. We all know the very easy solutions required to get the economy back on track, including our rulers! The problems that our rulers have is to implement the necessary measures and still preserve political power? In other words, all the ‘mistakes’ in policy formulation and implementation by ZPF since 1997 have been due to the perception of pressure and challenge from the MDC. They know the right thing but will not do it for fear of losing POWER to the opposition!!!!

  2. David Kilimanjaro October 24, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    zimbabwe’s problems are political in nature. let a moderate zanu pf lead by Mujuru come in and things will change in a matter of months.

    • chibwa2014 October 27, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Zimbabwean economic challenges are political.This is a fact.The challenge we have is how should we move forward.

      The first option would be to completely ignore the ideologies of the liberation struggle and liberalize the whole economy into a situation whereby business will regulate itself.This would mean that businesses and business owners/shareholders will influence government’s decisions.

      The second option would be to base any economic activity under the ideologies of the liberation struggle whereby issues to do with business activity shall be based on black involvement or empowerment.

      Whilst both options have their own disadvantages.I believe that going by option 1 would be like giving the mandate to run the country to a part of the ideologies of MDC-T.This would allow FDI to come in but several questions will always remain unanswered.A few examples of the questions are as follows.
      1.How certain are we that investment will flow immediately?
      2.Will these investments be condition free.?
      3.Will we be able to control our destiny as a nation afterwards.?
      4.Will the people Zimbabweans at large(remembering that the majority of Zimbabweans are blacks) benefit immensely into the next generations.?
      5.Will the cultural and social rights of the majority of Zimbabweans be upheld?

      Option 2 would be like giving the mandate to run the country to a party of the ideologies of ZANU PF under the current leadership.This would basically ensure that all the answers to the questions raised under the first option as all becoming true to every Zimbabwean.However so many questions will still remain unanswered and a few examples are as follows.
      1.Will we ever make it following the ideologies of the liberation struggle.?
      2.Are the few friends(international) we seem to have honest friends or we are just going round in a circle.
      3.Will there be serious transparency throughout the whole system,will corruption be nipped and every investment benefit everyone.
      4.Will the people Zimbabweans at large(remembering that the majority of Zimbabweans are blacks) benefit immensely into the next generations or will this not be a matter of transforming the elitist gang from the previous whites into a few blacks..?

      Further analysis of the above shows that our situation will not be easy as long as our main political parties remain Zanu Pf and MDC T.The real solution will only be reached when a win win situation is adapted on almost all the questions raised above.This I believe will only be achieved by engaging in serious dialogue upon those who are in places of authority.These negotiations are supposed to be highly holistic and involve all stakeholders concerned with the purpose of educating everyone on the difficulties the nation faces going forward.All the stakeholders will then be given an opportunity to share their expectations and views.The stakeholders must be from a very big pool of people including business owners and executives(from all types of industries operating in the country),security people,educationists,investors,market watchers(foreign and local),workers,political parties,the youth etc,service industry(health,legal etc)etc.

      The deliberations of course after careful considerations will then be used as a new vision for the country.For this to happen I believe all our current political leaders will need to be highly involved.I suggest that the country adopts a BOARD/SENATE (whatever you might want to call it) which will comprise selected leaders from all walks of life as per the current set up (obviously with a clear constitution).This BOARD/SENATE will be the supreme ruling organ of the nation presiding over the judiciary and legislative arms of the nation.

  3. chibwa2014 October 27, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    As an addition to the above the BOARD/SENATE will then have the mandate to safeguard the vision into the future.The vision therefore be immune to interference from the President.The President will therefore be like a CEO reporting to Board of Directors in as much as he will be chose by the people the incumbent will therefore need final endorsement by the Board..

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