Why We Keep Fixing the Same Problem: Lessons from the Icemaker

I don’t turn on the lights when I get a drink in the night. But occasionally, while standing in front of the fridge, I hear the freezer grinding. A frozen clinker is clogging the icemaker again. I can’t leave it till morning.

I struggle to keep the sleep in my eyes while I pry out the stuck ice cube with scissors. Ice is slippery, but I can grip clinkers with scissors. It’s 2 a.m.

During the day, when I hear an avalanche from the icemaker, I wonder if another ice cube clogged the works.

Once or twice a week, I dislodge an ice cube from our icemaker. Occasionally, I open the icemaker to check for lodged ice. Usually it’s fine.

Symptoms not causes:

You’re dealing with symptoms – not problems – when the same frustration returns over and over. The symptom is stuck ice. The problem is the icemaker.

When you refuse to deal with the real problem, you’ll deal with recurring frustration.

Stop being frustrated with frustration.

Frustration isn’t the problem. It’s easier to focus on frustration than to fix real problems.

Recurring frustration isn’t about frustration. It’s about tolerance.

Excuses for recurring frustration:

#1. The devil you know.

Ambiguity aversion – we prefer known risk to unknown. The devil you know feels safer than the devil you don’t know.

#2. The cost.

Symptom-fixing is faster and cheaper than solving real problems, at least in the short-term. It’s cheaper to grab the scissors than call for a repair.

#3. Troublemakers.

The person who digs into real problems is a ‘troublemaker’. The person who quickly makes the pain go away is a hero. The crowd cheers.

The glamour of fixing symptoms seduces us.

#4. Indispensable.

No one else knows how to dislodge frozen clinkers in our house. I’m important.

The need to look important causes people to fix the same pain-point over and over.

Why do leaders make excuses for prolonged frustration?

What is the secret to solving problems instead of fixing symptoms?

NOTE: Tomorrow’s topic focuses on solving real problems, not simply symptoms.

Bonus Material:

Stop Tolerating These Employee Behaviors (HR Daily)

How to Stop Solving Problems and Start Solving Patters (Leadership Freak)