An “Olympic” Fix That Backfired

The summer Olympics have been over for about a month, but the drum beats of the Olympic theme song still ring in my head.  It was an exciting Olympics. But along with the noteworthy accomplishments of the athletes, there was a notable event that caused me to consider the Fixes that Backfire archetype.

Ryan Lochte was a swimmer at the top of his game, but he, along with three of his teammates, found themselves under pressure to preserve their image after damaging a lavatory door. The swimmers opted for a quick fix solution to make the problem go away. When faced with accusations from local authorities, they initially provided a story about being held at gunpoint.ftf1-blog0926

In the short term, this seemed like a great solution. It made the problem go away, temporarily. Over time, as the actual events came to light and became more public, the swimmers suffered an unintended consequence. Their story was determined to be untrue. They admitted to what had actually happened, creating even more publicity and making the original problem of preserving their previously positive image even worse.

Archetypes tell classic stories that find their way into our lives on a daily basis. Systems thinkers learn to recognize these archetypical situations in order to anticipate undesirable unintended consequences.