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Shallow Success and Deep Failure

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In our modern society, we tend to favor and celebrate short-term success, pseudo-solutions and window-dressing activities at the peril of ignoring long-term consequences. An obsessive hunt for shortterm gains, often concretized as profit, produces detrimental effects for all life conditions in the long run. In the functioning of today's corporations, and in whole societies as well, we find many activities that result in grave failures rather than the creation of real solutions to pressing problems.

A Pyrrhic victory’ is a nice metaphor for a seeming success that, all things considered, finally costs too much. The term can be traced back to King Pyrrhus, who won a battle against the Romans in 279 B.C., but the victory was too expensive. It would have been better for the King and his army to avoid that battle. During our modern history we find too many similar examples, and one recurring question is how to avoid painful and destructive failures. Can we under certain conditions be better able to know in advance what to do and what to avoid and restrain, and thereby not waste resources or harm man and nature? There are many examples of the strong forces in organizations that work in the direction of treating symptoms rather than underlying problems (Cyert and March 1963). One interesting concept formulated by Zappfe (1996) is the distinction between a real-solution and a surrogate-solution. It is typical to run away from problems (and responsibility) and stick to a surrogate or pseudo solution.

The terms ‘shallow’ and ‘deep’ as used here demonstrate the inspiration we received from Arne Naess and his work on Ecosophy. By shallow, Naess means a reformist approach to the relationship between man and nature. The shallow approach represents a conventional anthropocentric perspective in which the central idea is to secure the health and affluence of people. In contrast, the deep approach favors a relational, total field image, looking at organisms as knots in intrinsic relations.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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