cover image Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

Dan Heath. Avid Reader, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9821-3472-3

Heath (The Power of Moments, coauthor), a senior fellow at Duke’s CASE Knowledge Center, urges a preventive, rather than reactive, problem-solving approach in his eloquent manifesto. With the frenetic pace of modern life, Heath observes, it’s easy to become accustomed to putting out fires instead of looking for the spark that’s igniting them. His examples of proactive, “upstream” thinking include a domestic violence prevention task force which, by bringing together police officers, victims’ advocates, health-care workers, and others, has eliminated intimate partner-perpetrated murders in the Massachusetts communities it has served for 14 years running. His takeaways include the need to “unite the right people” (as the domestic violence task force demonstrates), pay attention to early warnings, and find the right point of “leverage” to solve a problem. To illustrate this last principle, Heath cites a mentoring program which, by teaching young men peaceful conflict resolution skills, drastically reduced arrests and violent crimes in a Chicago neighborhood. He finishes by addressing larger-scale problems, using as an example a hurricane preparation exercise conducted in New Orleans just 13 months before Katrina that saved many thousands of additional people from dying. This is a pragmatic guide for those seeking big changes on either an individual or organizational level. Agent: Christy Fletcher, Fletcher & Company (Mar.)