Somebody Else’s Problem

Posted on: February 28th, 2014 by admin No Comments

I have to profess before I go too far into this blog, that I am a great fan of book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by the great Douglas Adams.  I remember watching this on public television on the olden days, the special effects were not so grand but everything else about the program was entertaining and engaging.  I have a single book with all of the novels listed below and find that my son enjoys the work so much he bought copies for his friends to read.

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  2. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  3. Life, the Universe and Everything
  4. So long, and Thanks for All the Fish
  5. Mostly Harmless
  6. And Another Thing….

Long Lost

When I was younger I especially enjoyed the concept of Somebody Else’s Problem or SEP. I remember using this as a retort to discussions where I failed to see how I was implicated or required to help solve the problem.  There are limitations to intellect is some youths.  To provide a common frame of reference, I provide the citation below:

Somebody Else’s Problem field,

or SEP, is a cheap, easy, and staggeringly useful way of safely protecting something from unwanted eyes. It can run almost indefinitely on a flashlight/9 volt battery, and is able to do so because it utilizes a person’s natural tendency to ignore things they don’t easily accept, like, for example, aliens at a cricket match. Any object around which a S.E.P is applied will cease to be noticed; because any problems one may have understanding it (and therefore accepting its existence) becomes Somebody Else’s. An object becomes not so much invisible as unnoticed.[1]

I wonder how many projects have suffered from this disorder, which includes the project manager.  When I was a group manager for a verification group I recall recounting the technical details to a project manager about the latest flambé du jour findings in testing.  The eyes glaze over and the discussion invariable goes back to the schedule for the project as if the catastrophe of which I just informed him was no more of a challenge than drinking a glass of water. The problem is the inability to understand the consequences when you first witness the problem does not mean the problem or circumstance goes away. Generally it festers and grows like a cancer contaminating those aspects that here-to-fore were not contaminated.

Long Term Consideration

Consider your projects, the US debt and every other large problem where we cannot get agreement.  If you ask me, this mindset or human limitation is a significant risk to any activity of significance.  

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with living in the real world and recognizing the limitations of a seemingly endless supply of rose colored glasses.  That color is just as bad as whatever the exact opposite would be.  Where did objectivity go?  Real information – or difficult to comprehend “bad news” does not go away due to our inability to absorb.  Neither does a positive attitude alone solve or resolve the impediment.


[1] http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Somebody_Else’s_Problem_field. [Last Accessed February 26, 2014].

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