From day to day and week to week, a person can face many unpleasant circumstances in his life. Somehow he manages to get through these times, convinced there is not much he can do to improve his life. Perhaps a project planned for months at work doesn’t come off with the expected success, the production in the office has declined sharply during the past few months or the addition to his house takes longer than first planned. Such things happen and are common occurrences for many of us.
But these don’t need to be the usual types of experiences that happen in your life. You can live a happy existence and accomplish your goals in any area of life—individually, with your family, job or your community. The aims you imagined for yourself can be accomplished.
If such goals are not being attained or if you are in a situation that has gotten worse, there is an actual cause for this that can be discovered. Normally, this idea is one that people often do not realize—things are actuallycaused. They don’t just happen. There are reasons behind every unpleasant or difficult circumstance—reasons that you can do something about.
Without knowing this, Man often depends on the belief that magic or luck have the power to have an influence on his life, or looks to studying the stars to determine his future, actually thinking that the movements of planets and stars can tell him what will happen in his life. None of this is based on reason or knowledge. Many people just hope vainly (unlikely to have the desired result) that nothing else will go wrong or they mislead themselves with the belief that life is normally a struggle and ”that’s just the way life is.”
For example, a farmer with a very poor crop one year has no explanation for it that makes sense. He has no idea that he himself caused this condition. However, if you were to look into it, you would find that the farmer had earlier failed to keep seeds safe for the spring planting, and so the seeds were harmed by insects. Not realizing this, he might come up with all sorts of odd ”reasons” or just blame it on bad luck.
Here’s another example. In a factory with low production, the manager is moving personnel, hiring new workers, etc., in an effort to increase production before the factory is bankrupt. But the manager might not have the skills needed to really examine how the factory is working to find the actual cause of the low production. If you inspected the factory, you could discover that the suppliers of its raw materials refused to deliver because the office that handles the factory’s financial matters wasn’t paying the bills.
To look into, handle and improve any situation like this in any area of life requires skill ininvestigation—the ability to think in a reasonable or sensible manner and get to the actual cause of the problem.
Investigationis the careful discovery and sorting of facts. In investigating, you are searching out and examining the details of something in an attempt to learn the facts, especially in an attempt to find acause.
When you do a proper investigation, you find out the actual cause of the problem that you are facing. For example, in any organization, you could observe that its production was down. This is not a good situation and it should be investigated and the cause located. Investigations can also be used in your own personal life to improve conditions.
When doing an investigation, you should be asking the question, ”What don’t I understand?” concerning the existing conditions that you want to handle. You will find that two facts don’t agree—meaning they are different and make it impossible for both to be true—so you can’t understand them. So you try to make sense out of these two facts: you question these two facts and you will get another point you don’t understand. And when you try to getthispoint understood, you will now find another fact that you don’t understand. And someplace along the way, you will find the actual reason or cause for the circumstances you are investigating.
Any investigation should progress this way—continuing to ask questions every time something doesn’t make sense. Sometimes many questions have to be asked, sometimes it only takes a ”What is that noise?” to lead you to the source of a difficulty. Here is an example of an investigation done quickly due to having an emergency situation: An engineer is on duty in a ship’s engine room. Having been an engineer for many years, he uses his experience when he observes his area. He hears a hissing sound that shouldn’t be there—something opposite to what the normal conditions are in an engine room. He rapidly looks over the area and does not see anything that isn’t normal except for a small white cloud. The engineer combines what he sees with what he hears and moves toward the white cloud to get a better look. He sees a valve has broken so immediately shuts off the steam line (a system of pipes that carry steam for heating and power on a ship). The hissing stops.
In a few words, (a) you find a poorly functioning part of an organization or whatever you are investigating and then (b) you find something that you don’t understand about it and then (c) you ask questions of the people in that area connected with the problem or you look into the area to get more information.
By following these steps in this order, you will find the cause of the trouble which can then be handled so the area works properly again. In an organization, you can apply just these three steps over and over again, and it will usually be enough to keep it running very smoothly.
Statistics (a number or amount compared to an earlier number or amount of the same thing)play a part in investigations. A statistic shows the production of an activity, area or organization, as compared to an earlier moment in time. It reflects whether or not the area is achieving its purpose—if statistics are increasing, it is more closely accomplishing what is intended for the area because things should be getting bigger, not smaller in any organization.
In doing an investigation, you look for statistics that are going down (getting less). These don’t make sense, of course, so you question the people that are responsible for the production that the statistics measure. In their answers there will be something that doesn’t make sense to you—for example, they may say ”We can’t pay the bills because Josie has been taking time off work to do a course.” You are only looking for something that doesn’t make sense. So you question the person who gave you this information and you also speak to Josie about the bills. Sooner or later you will discover the real reason. In this case, let’s say you find out that Josie is taking a course in accounting because she didn’t know how to properly handle the accounts. As a result, she was afraid of paying bills until she completed the course. Now that you found the correct cause, it’s easy for you to work on how to handle it. The company actually has plenty of money to pay the bills and this is done right away, while also making sure Josie completes her training and knows how to do the accounting.
As you are going down thetrailof things you can’t understand, one of two things will happen. Either it is a dead end (a course of action that produces no results) and it doesn’t go any further, at which time you return to an earlier point in your investigation where things were beginning to make sense,oryour questions turn up more information that is useful. And if it produces more information, you will find more things you can’t understand that you can follow up on.
When coming across two facts that are contrary (opposite) to one another, you ask questions on these two facts and get another point you don’t understand. You continue on this path of things you don’t understand until the real reason is located.
To put this another way to give you a clearer picture, the skill in doing this investigation is like finding a piece of string sticking out—something you can’t understand—and, by questioning, pull on the string. As you pull, a small cat shows up. You pull on the string by asking more questions and a baby gorilla shows up. You pull some more and a tiger appears. Now you pull again and wow! You’ve got a General Sherman tank (a large powerful tank named after a famous general)! That is what you were looking for, the real reason for the difficulty that you want to solve.
You see, itisn’tsensible for people to be lazy or stupid. At the bottom of the problem you will find therealcause of people not taking any action in an organization that is having difficulty or for some upset that doesn’t ever seem to resolve.
When you have your ”General Sherman tank,” you can take action.
There is always areasonbehind a bad statistic or bad condition. Ask questions of those involved until youhave the real reasonworked out. It will never be ”Jane isn’t bright.” It is more likely: Jane was hired as a typist but never knew how to type. Or the executive over the area just never comes to work.
The real reason for a statistic that is down is always something that can be very easily understood. And if you ask enough questions, you’ll get the real reason and then you can take effective action.
This technique of investigation, while very simple, is highly effective because it gets good results. It can be applied when you face simple or even difficult to understand problems so that you can find the actual reason that is causing them. This helps you to resolve them.
As you practice investigation, your skills will improve. You can sharpen your skills and make them more effective so that you are able to instantly see something you don’t understand and take action. Although this ability is not natural in people—they weren’t born with it—you can easily acquire the skill.
To make investigations even more rapid and effective, you must be able to understand and apply the principles oflogic—a subject that has been misunderstood and made very confusing for no good reason. That is no longer the case. In the next article you will learn fundamentals concerning logic.