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How to Overcome Diminishing Returns

Avoiding and reversing their effects
Monday, November 4, 2013, 3:26 PM
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Executive Summary

  • Identifying the 8 characteristics that signal a system is experiencing diminishing returns
  • The powerful advantages simplification can offer
  • Debt-avoidance as a forward strategy
  • The criticality of creating parallel, self-reliant systems

If you have not yet read Our Era’s Definitive Dynamic: Diminishing Returns, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

In Part I, we surveyed examples of diminishing returns and touched upon the forces that generate devotion to systems beset by diminishing returns. In Part II, we’ll look a little deeper into the dynamics, with an eye on avoiding being ensnared in systems that are doomed by dwindling yields and rising costs.

Characteristics of Diminishing Return Systems

1. Friction. Sources of what I term 'friction' include procedural impedance between dissimilar systems, fraud, inefficiencies, and processes that no longer add value but that are accepted as “the way things work.” (I wrote about systemic friction for Peak Prosperity in 2011: How Much of the U.S. Economy Is Friction?)

Common examples include the proliferating “reward cards” from retailers that fill our wallets and purses with low-value complexity and our absurdly complex income tax system that costs billions of dollars while serving primarily as a conduit for special-interest tax breaks.

2.  “Solutions” that do not address the root problem.  One example is our healthcare system’s haphazard approach to mental health: A great many mentally ill people who fall between the system’s cracks end up being incarcerated, in essence passing the cost and responsibility for mental healthcare to the already-burdened criminal justice system. Imprisoning the mentally ill is clearly a diminishing-return “solution” to our systemic lack of mental health care.

 

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