Time for The Slow Fix

How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along?


Still hitting the gym every day? Eating more healthily? Putting your finances in order?


Thought so.


Most of us struggle to last a week on a new regime before sliding back into bad old habits. We lack the willpower to make deep and lasting changes in our lives. What we really want when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve is a quick fix.


Shortcut solutions to life’s problems are not new. Two thousand years ago, Plutarch denounced the army of quacks peddling miracle cures to the citizens of Ancient Rome.


But in today’s on-demand, just-add-water culture, the quick fix has become our default setting in every walk of life. And that is taking a toll.


Why? Because quick fixes seldom deliver on their seductive promise of maximum return for minimum effort. Whether it’s mending a failing company, tackling poverty, treating an illness, or rebuilding a broken relationship, the hardest problems are too complex for band-aid cures.


Newsflash: there is no such thing as “One Tip to a Flat Stomach.”


The good news is there is now an alternative to the quick fix. It’s called, not surprisingly, the Slow Fix.


You may have heard of the Slow Movement, which challenges the canard that faster is always better. You don’t have to ditch your career, toss the iPhone, or join a commune to take part. Living “Slow” just means doing everything at the right speed—quickly, slowly, or at whatever pace delivers the best results.


In other words, fast fixes are sometimes just what the doctor ordered. For certain problems, you have to channel MacGyver, reach for the duct tape, and cobble together whatever solution works right now. Think patching up a wounded soldier on the battlefield or saving someone from choking on a morsel of food by administering the Heimlich manoeuvre.


But when faced with more complex problems, the best policy is usually to apply a Slow Fix.


That means taking the time to: admit and learn from mistakes; work out the root causes of the problem; sweat the small stuff; think long and connect the dots to build holistic solutions; seek ideas from everywhere; work with others and share the credit; build up expertise while remaining skeptical of experts; think alone and together; tap emotions; enlist an inspiring leader; consult and even recruit those closest to the problem; turn the search for a fix into a game; have fun, follow hunches, adapt, use trial and error, and embrace uncertainty.


All of this takes time, and in our impatient world that can seem like an indulgence or a luxury. But the Slow Fix is neither. It’s actually a smart and essential investment in the future. Put in the time, effort, and resources to start tackling a problem thoroughly today, and reap the benefits tomorrow.


Around the world, you see more and more examples of the Slow Fix in action: Couples rebooting damaged relationships. Families ending feuds. Children resolving playground conflicts. People finding lasting ways to lose weight and boost their health. By applying a Slow Fix, I am finally conquering a back problem that has bothered me for more than 20 years.


Slow Fixes are also making inroads on problems that go way beyond the personal sphere: Reformers rescuing a failing school in Los Angeles. Norway and Singapore slashing recidivism rates among criminals. Spain transforming its organ transplant system into the envy of the world. A project lifting children out of poverty in New York. Costa Rican coffee farmers freeing themselves from the vagaries of the international commodity market. Formula One engineers fine-tuning the fastest cars on the planet. Doctors making fewer mistakes. Companies boosting sales and productivity. Designers building better stuff. Scientists making surprising breakthroughs. Developing nations rolling back tropical diseases.


Everywhere you look, from the personal to the collective, the problems we face are more complex and more pressing than ever before. Quick fixes are not the answer.


The time has come to resist the siren call of half-baked solutions and short-term palliatives and start fixing things properly.


The time has come to learn the art of the Slow Fix.