I was really excited to learn about the new book by Dan Heath, so I pre-ordered it at the start of March. The new book is Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen.
You might know of Dan Heath from the books he co-authored with his brother Chip, including Switch and Made to Stick.
I started reading the book and was really enjoying it… and then came the realizations that the pandemic was upon us. The book seemed really prescient in that better “upstream” preventive problem solving would have helped the world a lot.
Without mentioning Lean (or Toyota), Dan Heath lays out a great case that will resonate with a Lean thinker — it's better to solve problems upstream instead of just reacting after they occur.
But, psychology and human nature gets in the way… it's hard to get excited about problems that haven't (or might not occur). It's hard to find the time to work on upstream problems when we're super busy reacting to fires all day long.
“In this book, I'm defining upstream efforts as those intended to prevent problems before they happen or, alternatively, to systematically reduce the harm caused by those problems.”
Surely we'd all prefer to live in the upstream world where problems are prevented rather than reacted to. What holds us back?”
Heath writes that downstream reactions can turn into upstream solutions for the future, he also adds:
“…while upstream solutions are generally more desirable, they're also more complex and ambiguous.”
I was hoping to connect with Dan to do a podcast. But, I had the chance to listen to the WLEI Podcast episode where my friend Tom Ehrenfeld interviewed Dan.
I'd love to hear what you think of the podcast and/or the book.
Dan uses examples from many companies, but Toyota did not appear (and I searched the Kindle version). If I did a podcast with Dan, I might ask about that omission, as Toyota provides many great examples of (and frameworks for) upstream problem solving.
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