The Humpty Dumpty Effect

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King’s horses and

All the King’s men

Could not put him together again.

 The Humpty Dumpty Effect occurs when doing our best is not good enough, when more of the same only digs us into a deeper hole, and when the sum of our solutions does not balance the weight of our problems. In spite of the finest intentions and much hard work, things slide more in the direction of for-worse, not for­ better. If the Humpty Dumpty Effect continues too long, we reach a tipping point from which recovery is expensive and difficult, if not impossible.

 Many aspects of American life are approaching Humpty Dumpty points. Our endangered inner cities and fringe “Third World” strips continue to belch high crime rates as symptoms of hopelessness and social decay, resembling graffiti-filled war zones more than interconnected members of a healthy society.

In spite of decades of well-meant efforts by a full spectrum of individuals and groups, the overall social conditions seem to deteriorate, not improve. The impasse continues and gaps widen, not just between have’s and have-not’s, but know’s and know-not’s, can’s and cannot’s, will’s and will-not’s.

 The corporate world right-sizes, down-sizes, re-sizes, and commits to quality while reengineering and reviewing visions, missions, effective habits, and goals. Flavor-of-the-month consultants hawk their wares while people entrenched in their own status quo’s fight to keep things as they are. Executives polish their cutting edges while employees on the shop floors are expected to do more with less and fewer. Far too often, trainers and human resources staff are expected to apply bandages and pain killers while the scythe of a bottom line cuts another layer off their own organizations.

Such are Humpty Dumpty times. The same old King’s horses, men, and women, no matter how well­ funded or represented by batches of attorneys and consultants, will not be able to set things right. The partisan decision-making systems and litigious win-lose “games” that characterize so many of our national debates will never turn this tide. Neither more cold-blooded house cleaning nor egalitarian team-working will bring order to systems that are fundamentally flawed. Changing the players or even modifying the rules will not save Humpty Dumpty so long as the game is the thing. Instead, what is necessary is a quantum leap, a profound shift in critical mass, and a major transformation in the way we understand human nature itself because, once again,

“We are shaping the world faster than we can change ourselves, and we are applying to the present the habits of the past.” – Winston Churchill

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