Causal Layered Analysis

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Causal Layered Analysis

In this approach, we see the issue as an iceberg, with most of it concealed below the waterline.

At the top you have the visible debate, the day-to-day discussion of events, trends, and problems, often accompanied by media spin and official positions. This “litany” is the public description of the issue.

Many analysts will then attempt to pull out the underlying causes. They will look at the structures and inter-relationships, try to see the issue as a whole system. While valuable this still only gets you so far.

More in-depth, more ingrained are the world views of the stakeholders. We are talking at the level of culture and values, of paradigms and mental models, where the way language itself works frames or constrains the issue.

Finally we can go deeper into myths and metaphors. The fundamental defining archetypes, gut emotional responses and visual image which the issue brings to mind.

For example, a political issue about housing shortages will have many immediate causal factors, but digging deeper you will find strong cultural norms around ownership (“An Englishman’s home is his castle”, “Home Sweet Home”) and fundamental gut feelings about safety, security and love.

To really get to grips with such deep issues you need to break out of the cohort memory and embrace cultural diversity.

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site last updated
21 March 2018


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