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Why Do Things Happen?

Why Do Things Happen?

Why Do Things Happen?

Things don't "just happen". Every event has multiple causes, which can be classified into four different types: Material, formal, efficient and final

1. Material cause

The material cause is the nature of the substances from which the objects taking part in the event are made. For example, the material cause of a house fire would include the materials which were present in the rooms. If the materials were made of steel, then the result would be different than if the materials were made of polystyrene.

Aristotle called the materials involved in an event: the Material cause.

2. Formal cause - Design

The formal cause of an event is the design or the natural structure (or form) of the things taking part in the event. If the form is inconsistent with the function, then a problem occurs.

For example: If a room is designed without sufficient ventilation, and if it were heated with a gas-burning fire, then the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning may become evident.

Aristotle called the design-error cause, the Formal cause.

3. Efficient cause - Trigger event

The efficient cause is the trigger that is the most immediate and evident cause of an event.

For example, in the sinking of the Titanic, the ship crashing into the iceberg was the trigger event - the efficient cause. If there had been no iceberg, things would have been different.

Efficient causes are often obvious and even a superficial study reveals them.

"Elementary, Watson: This man died because he fell off a ten-storey building and hit the concrete pavement".

4. Final cause - Intention

The final cause is human intention or error. For example, if the man in the above example was pushed off the building by someone else, then the culprit's wicked intention was the final cause. In the Titanic example, the Captain's ambitious desire to win the Blue-Ribbon prize for the fastest transatlantic crossing was a contributory cause to the disaster.

Human intention is the final cause.

Next time you have a problem, map out the causes using this diagram. Then write out the possible solutions, two for each cause.

General Development : Why Do Things Happen?

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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