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Stephen Mayo | Ripple Effects

Ripple Effects

Jan. 23, 2022

When a system is accustomed to steady volume, a disruption or a bubble can cause significant and lasting issues:


One of the problems when there’s an emergency is that the ripples can persist, creating a perpetual state of emergency.   The underlying issue is no longer there, but the temporary overload has stressed the system in ways it couldn’t handle, and now the reverberations are causing more issues than the original disruption.


A few potential solutions:

  1. Have the system operate below full capacity voluntarily so there’s excess room if you need it
  2. Maintain a reservoir (a backup) so you can increase capacity quickly if necessary
  3. Have a procedure for addressing emergencies so their effects are contained, not compounded


Think about the most important systems in your life.  What changes could you make to help them be more robust?



Donella Meadows’ classic Thinking in Systems is a good source for additional reading on this topic.

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