Digging Holes Builds Character

The difficulties present in analyzing the root cause of a problem can be better understood by comparing this process to one of my favorite childhood books, Holes. For those who have not read the book, the premise of the story is as follows: A boy, Stanley Yelnats, is sent to a boys correction camp because of a crime he did not commit. When he arrives, he becomes unlikely friends with the other boys. For the duration of their time at the camp, the boys are only allowed to dig holes, six feet wide and six feet deep. Their purpose is to dig holes to build character. It’s hot. It’s hard. It’s monotonous. Somehow, through these hardship, these boys are supposed to become better people. However, by the end of the tale, there is more behind digging these holes than the boys first understand. They are lead an adventure that (spoiler alert) eventually ends with the rectification of Stanley and restitution of the Yelnats family fortune.

Never in my life have I dug a hole that wide or that deep. But I can imagine that it is a very tedious and unpleasant process. It clearly requires a lot of diligence, strength, and a hint of insanity. It comes as no surprise that the heat, the hardship, and the monotony do not make this process any easier.

Much like digging holes, finding the root cause of a specific problem is a long, hard, and wearisome process. It requires the audacity to ask some really hard questions and the tenacity to keep asking. Sometimes, one might even be the subject of receiving a lot of heat for asking them. Asking questions or conducting researching can be likened to striking the ground with the shovel. Opposition is evident with every strike. However, I do not think it is the nature of striking the ground that makes this work inherently difficult.

The most difficult part of finding the root cause is having the intelligence to strike at the right spot, and the strength of character to keep digging through the heat. Finding the root cause eventually boils down to a matter character and intelligence. Building the character strong enough to endure the heat, and developing the intelligence enough to adequately address these issues is a difficult process. Without these, it is impossible for one to really discover the root causes of these social problems. But, when properly employed, that shovel can final hit the perfect point, at the perfect time, and a plan for the solution begins to unfold. In the field of social innovation, it is requisite for one to have the character and intelligence meet for the challenge. These are two vital and most difficult elements to strengthen and exercise while conducting an accurate root cause analysis.