Upstream - How to solve problems before they happen

manager , heath , book-notes

Imagine sitting enjoying a picnic with a friend at the side of a river. Suddenly you see a kid drowning, you and your friend dive in and save him. A few minutes later the same thing happens. When the third kid comes down river, your friend runs away. You scream at him - why the hell aren’t you helping. He replies, I’m running upstream to stop the bastard who’s throwing kids into the river. Upstream is the idea of solving problems before they start. It’s the basis of habit 3, First Things First, where we tackle the important not urgent.

This is my summary of upstream

What’s blocking us from operating upstream?

I don’t know about the problem

It’s not my problem

  • car seats
  • men stand with women on abuse topic

I don’t have the capacity to solve the problem (Tunnelling)

  • Systems need slack to operate upstream

What questions do we ask to solve upstreams problems

How will you unite your allies

How will you change the system

Where can you find leverage

How will you get early warning signs

How will you know you’re successful

How will you avoid doing harm

Who will pay

Far Upstream

The chicken little problem.


The scope of change: Societal, Organizational, Personal

  • The big head problem
  • The charger shuffle problem
  • Mindful eating.

Downstream vs Upstream

The story

The need for slack

Further reading