Why a broken process will fail you every time
Recognizing Reality – Why systems failed us so far and the traps we fall to.
Why a broken process will fail you every time.
Humanitarian aid and conservation projects span the globe, arising from long-term armed conflicts, sudden epidemics, natural disasters, poaching, human-wildlife conflicts, pollution and more.
The world’s large, charismatic species are especially visibly under attack: Elephants, Rhinos, Gorillas, and Tigers are slaughtered by the thousands as crime syndicates seek to satisfy international markets, leading to increased use of sophisticated tactics and weaponry by poaching gangs. This militarization of wildlife crime, paralleled by increased threats to defenseless communities, has overwhelmed conservation and law enforcement agencies.
In an effort to keep pace, agencies have raced into adopting technology for conservation or humanitarian purposes without proper advice on process, security and defense strategies. In parallel, many companies have joined the race by pushing expensive technology onto conservation projects without considering their suitability. Failure to plan for and select appropriate technological solutions has resulted in disappointing experiences, distrust, and wasted resources (monetary, time, and lives).
Unfortunately, for all their hard work, dedication, and good intentions many in the animal conservation and humanitarian movement have too often fallen prey to the understandable but ineffective instinct to just go ahead and do something, anything, logic be damned. It's a grab-and-try dynamic, a band-Aid mindset that can no longer be indulged as we see in dwindling wildlife numbers and increased wildlife crime.
The adoption of the right method in the right place is critical: rather than introduce any single piece of technology into the field merely for the sake of using technology, an overall tactical strategy and process will enable each institution to properly select, test, and deploy the most appropriate systems and methods for their area of concern, while considering the realities in the field and the gradual process to implement them.
A broken process will fail you every time.
Time and time again, we have seen and heard of groups that attempt to introduce technology to wildlife challenges and when they fail to provide the expected results, the excitement dies down, blaming the solution itself rather then the process itself and its leaders. Solutions will always fail when the inappropriate system is brought to the inappropriate site, conditions or needs.
In the process to select an advanced technology to conservation or humanitarian causes you have two key players. The conservation/humanitarian agency (The buyer) on one hand, and the technology supplying company (The seller). This Buyer/Seller relationship caused and causes an ill-fated process where:
The seller aims to sell whatever systems he has to this market share, with no regard to actual relevance to challenges, personnel or terrain conditions - the goal is simply to sell.
The Buyer wishes to buy a system that will help his challenges, but unknowingly selects a system which is inappropriateness for his needs or insufficient in capabilities, training and supplies for long term operation.
The current familiar process can be called the “Just do it” mentality that simply wants to get something done.
The abandonment of any results oriented process is unintentional and comes from a deep wish to do something in the face of such grave and urgent challenges. This path to disappointment has several traps, which are easy to fall to when one is urgently seeking a solution and I list them below (see graphic):
Any project starts from a need, problem or challenge: These include issues such as poaching, deforestation, poisoning, water and food resources, habitat loss, Human-Wildlife conflict and much more. Traps include a lack of clear recognition or definition of the problem at hand and the false equivalency between seemingly similar problems when the characteristics of each problem and area vary greatly.
2. Wishful Simplification: Despite complexity and varying characteristics, there is a widespread tendency to simplify the problem into boxes of known reasons and results, blinding us to other crucial causes and
effects which may be more relevant to in order to solve the problem.
3. Assuming Causality: The simplification assumes a direct causality, which then leads to a solution
framework that neglects other and secondary factors (Assumption as the mother of all fuckups).
4. Direct simplified search: A low cost mentality with a simple causality frame of thought, dictates a search for a simple particular solution. These immediate solutions may not take into account all factors, focusing on a narrow section or even forgetting the actual goals/change that needed to occur.
5. Attaching to offered suggestions: Companies try to promote their solutions in targeted campaigns
towards simplified problems, directly to nature agencies and via global organizations. This form of working focuses on sexy systems that do not necessarily yield results and causes blindness to other options causing quality to remain secondary to urgency or cost.
6. Erroneous information: Information available via the web is commonly aimed at promoting systems and organizations, providing selective data, which benefits their wishes and goals. This creates wishful thinking and creates attachment to seemingly relevant suggestions and creates unrealistic expectations, which do not mirror operational reality or results
7. Lack of relevant experience: Organizations navigate the sea of solutions with no ability and experience to fact check and really measure relevance. Thy are left to analyze and measure with whatever information is available, which at many times if actually not relevant. This causes a process that pushes forward without knowledge of reality and sets up for disappointment.
8. False causality: Systems are deployed, with success or failure that is attributed to systems with no real measurable data, or even such that creates a false feeling of causality, and zero results. This is a continuing circle that wastes time, money and lives.
9. Going forward despite evidence: Lack of cooperation and mutual learning is evident in the field as multiple "ideas and solutions" are introduced again and again with none actually working well or yielding any results. Organizations are trapped to try again ideas that already have been tested, creating growing feelings of the failure of technology, wasting lessons learned lives, time and money.
10. Giving up: System failing again and again results in disappointing experiences, distrust, and wasted resources (monetary, time, and lives). These lead to a form of thinking that will limit the agility and ability to try again, despite facts or new possibilities.