Thinking Beyond the Status Quo

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Albert Einstein

Early in my life, I fell in love with puzzles. There is just something about challenging yourself to attack a complicated problem that I have always enjoyed. Even today, I will find myself sitting at the house working on a crossword or a sudoku puzzle in my downtime. Problem-solving forces us to pull away from everything we know and sometimes question our assumptions. The way we handle problems tells us so much about who we are as individuals. Great problem solvers are capable of viewing issues from multiple perspectives, and when necessary, reframing these issues in new and creative ways.

A few weeks ago, I was in the grocery store. I had a list and was trying to get a few things for the house before heading home. I had not intended to purchase toilet paper. I had enough toilet paper, but when I got to that aisle, there was a frenzy of activity as everyone was stocking up on toilet paper. So, since every other buggy in the store had toilet paper, I grabbed a pack as well. Only one pack. I wasn’t interested in hoarding; I just relieved my anxiety by following the peer pressure of other shoppers and falling in line.  

The toilet paper scarcity problem in the country has fascinated me. I am pretty sure that toilet paper does not play a significant role in the prevention of COVID-19 the way Clorox and hand sanitizer might. But, it is rushing off the shelves nonetheless. The simple answer is that people are hoarding toilet paper; however, we must also consider that since the majority of the country is staying at home during this pandemic, we are making more trips to the bathroom at home and far fewer at work or school. We might actually need more toilet paper at home. It is easy to write people off as hoarders, but realizing the peer pressure and fear are both extremely contagious allows us to see the problem through a different lens.

When we disrupt the status quo, there are ripple effects. COVID-19 disrupted our sense of normal. As the events surrounding COVID-19 continue to unfold, it is changing the way we think about grocery shopping, dining, education, and many other parts of our normal lives. Finding answers to the problems caused by this disruption will require deep thinking and collaboration. It will not be solved by the same thinking that created these problems, and it will not be solved by blaming others for these issues. The ripple effects from the spring of 2020 will likely be felt for years to come. It is up to us what is remembered, the problems that could not be solved, or the creative genius that allowed us to thrive in difficult times. The world will be different when this is over, but what it looks like is still up to us.