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Christmas dynamics

December 8th, 2010 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: ,

I think you will spend 123 seconds reading this post

Christmas is approaching. Parents and relative usually buy toys for children (theirs and others). But, given the increasing revenues in developed countries and decreasing costs of toys (thanks to production outsourced to developing countries with low production costs), children often have more and more toys for Christmas.

I tried to modeled the way children usually engage with toys and the consequences for them. The diagram is provided below.

SD diagram for a fix that fails in buying more toys for children

SD diagram for a fix that fail in buying more toys for children

It goes something like that:

When provided with toys, children play with them, which directly reduces their need for new toys. But, the more toys are provided to the children, the less they can engage with them (because their attention is spread over all the toys). The less engaged they are with the toys, the more boredom they experience, which increases their need for new toys. And then, because/when parents can offer new toys, the cycle goes again, this time with even more toys provided, which on a short term allows the children to play with them, but in the longer term, further spread their attention and then will increase their boredom.

So providing a lot of toys works on the short term, but fails on the long term. This is an archetype of Fix that Fail.

What are effective strategies? The archetype proposes two of them:

  • advance planning, which would mean anticipating the situation and don’t offer too much toys
  • disconnect the unintended consequence from the action (offering toys), which would mean here to provide toys that don’t induce boredom. Maybe toys that are so versatile that each time you engage with them, they provide for something new? This might be an explanation of why Playmobil, Lego, Meccano or other dolls are so popular, even after all these years: you can create stories out of them!

I would also encourage parents not to provide too much toys to their children (and ask relatives not to compensate for that!) That’s heartbreaking for sure, but we (yes, I too have kids) need to think to their long term benefits. Didn’t your parents or grandparents talked about when they were kids and could play for hours with very few toys?

So, should we inquire into what works for the sustain enjoyment of kids, we would know the answer. How come we can hardly apply that knowledge?

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