October 30, 2019 | Mark Paradies

Do Your People Know All the Answers?

Know All The Answers

When I was a kid, being called a “know it all” was an insult. But the other day we were talking about what you needed to be an effective problem solver using 5-Whys or other cause-and-effect related techniques for root cause analysis and the consensus was that you had to know the answer BEFORE you started the analysis.

Why? Because you don’t know what you don’t know and there is nothing in a cause-and-effect based technique to help you find the answers that you don’t know.

Finding the Wrong Answer

When you are looking for the answers, you tend to find what you look for. This can lead to something called “Confirmation Bias.”


That’s one reason why cause-and-effect often finds the wrong answer. An answer you know and understand rather than the answer you don’t know (but is really the cause). Do you think that you can be “careful” and avoid confirmation bias? Click on th cartoon above and read more and you might change your mind.


One other bias we’ve frequently observed is that even guru root cause analysis experts tend to have favorite root causes that they look for. We call this “favorite-cause-itis.”

An example of this was a human factors consultant that was asked to help with a major investigation. He was a university professor and his current research focus was fatigue. Guess what causes he looked for and found in the investigation? FATIGUE related causes.

Was fatigue a cause? Yes. Was it the only cause. No. Did he find all the potential causes? No. Why? Because he was focused on his favorite cause – FATIGUE.

Know It All - Do Your People Know All the Answers?

Potential Solutions

What can you do to stop finding the familiar but wrong answers? Here are three ideas:

  1. Learn EVERYTHING. Then you will know all the answers. This still leaves the problem of favorite-cause-itis unsolved.
  2. Try the technique called: “Consider the Opposite.” Good luck with this. I’ve tried it. I didn’t think it was very effective. (Consider trying it the next time you watch the news about politics. See if you can constantly “consider the opposite” viewpoint from your own as you watch.)
  3. Get an expert (or an expert system) to suggest other possibilities that you should consider.

If you picked the third answer … read on!

Guidance to Find the Real Answers (the Root Causes)

How can you find answers that are beyond your knowledge? You need an expert system that helps you look for more possibilities. That’s what TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis provides.

How? We used the science of human factors to develop expert guidance to analyze human errors. We tested the system on hundreds of incidents. We had the system reviewed by human factors experts, management gurus, and safety experts from around the world. We tested it on users and got feedback from beginners and more expert users to improve the system. And we continue the improvement even to today.

So this guidance (the Root Cause Tree® and Root Cause Tree® Dictionary) is built into the TapRooT® System and can help you overcome your bias to confirm your initial thoughts or find your favorite root causes.

Find Out More About Guided Root Cause Analysis

The Root Cause Tree® and Root Cause Tree® Dictionary are only two of the tools built into TapRooT® to provide guidance during an investigation. Want to learn about more ways that TapRooT® guides your investigation? Read:

Guided Root Cause Analysis

Or, to really learn how TaprooT® can help you solve problems, attend a TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Course. When and where can you attend a course? See our upcoming public TapRooT® Courses at this link:


Or have a TapRooT® Course at your site. Contact us by CLICKING HERE to get a quote.


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