You’re driving your old classic car with a partner on your way to work, through a hot, barren desert. The commute is ridiculously long; lately it has stretched to more than an hour each way, in part because the ancient car can go only 40 miles an hour. What’s worse, it lacks an air conditioner. You both roll down the windows, but that barely helps. By the time you get to work each day, you’re dripping with sweat. Your trip back home is even hotter. You could stand it if the breeze were stronger or the commute weren’t as long. “We need air conditioning,” your partner says. Here’s a classic illustration of the failure to think systematically.
Look at America’s most notable characteristics, and you’ll find its critical functions. For example, we have a dominant military, the largest economy, we generate the most patents, we invented the iPhone and online shopping, boast the most advanced research universities, and make the most popular music and movies. Given these traits, you might say America’s key functions are to be powerful, rich, innovative, and creative.