School ShootingThe title of this post is a reference to a quote by General Curtis Lemay about not being about to tell the difference between treason and incompetence – the results were the same.  And results are really what we deal with every day.  Something happens and we immediately start looking for THE REASON why it happened.

Which is stupid because we live in a dynamic world.  Very few things happen because one thing led to another.  Yes, in hindsight it looks that way, but it’s the forward looking that fails because there are so many reasons why something happens.

Recently, there was a school shooting nearby.  The accused shooter, a student, brought guns from home and killed one student and wounded others.  Why did he do it?  There are reports that he was bullied; that he watched documentaries on school shootings, and played violent video games.

So, the urge is to blame guns, bullying, glorification of school shooters and violent video games.

But the probability of becoming a school shooter based on the presence of guns, bullying, glorification or violent video games is literally one in a million or 10 million.  Hard to believe?

As of Feb 16, 2016, there have been 50 actual or attempted mass murders school shootings since Columbine.  In 2017, there are 2.2 billion video game players in the world (roughly 29% of the total population) while in the United States 65% of households have devices to play video games.  That’s more than 50 million people in the United States – so it’s likely that 1 in a million is a good estimate for the likelihood of someone becoming a school shooter based on video games.

But, we still want to be able to predict who’s going to be the next school shooter.  We want to prevent school shootings from happening.  So, we look at what we think are the causes and want to eliminate them.

But it doesn’t work – and never will.  But people still play the lottery.

Because there’s always a way if you start with enough people to find one that can.

This has implications far beyond school shootings.

I recently completed a course on cyber security.  The most important lesson is that eventually any defense will fail and the bad guys will get in.

Building more defenses, higher defenses, stronger defenses, only postpones the inevitable and usually results in more damage because the stronger defenses means we apply less resources to being able to recover.  We get complacent – it won’t happen to me because I got a firewall; spam blocker; secure doors; police officers in the school; gun-free zone – the list goes on and so does the damage because we didn’t expect it.

I’m not advocating that we just accept – the head in the sand approach.  No, what is needed is a pro-active approach.  Start with the assumption that the bad does happen and answer the question, “What then?”  How can we create a system, an environment, a community, a world that is resilient enough to recover swiftly when the bad happens?

Because the bad always happens, we just can’t predict where, when or how.

What’s important is how well we react.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.