Chicken-and-egg – the ideal metaphor for unclear causes and effects

Regularly we buy eggs, which were hopefully laid by happy chickens. And sometimes the egg is used, in order to let hatch out another happy chicken. Actually the cycle of laying and hatching is turning without interruption. If you would like to go back to the beginning of this cycle, it is hard to define the starting point. Apart from religions that simply answer this question with a creator, a logical starting point is missing. An egg is laid by a chicken, which, in turn, slips out of an egg. Thus, chicken-and-egg is an ideal metaphor for unclear causes and effects.

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Actually the chicken-and- egg problem is solved – in the beginning was the egg (John Brookfield). This is valid, if you accept the argumentation of John Brookfield that the genetic make-up of an animal does not change during lifetime. The change from the nonchicken to the chicken can only happen in the egg. And anyway, eggs existed a long time before the chickens. Let’s transfer the problem to our everyday life.

  • E-Mobility
    Electric cars are not bought yet, because there are not sufficient charging stations. As long as there are not sufficient charging stations, electric cars are not bought. What comes first? The politicians believe the electric cars and therefore want to subsidize the purchase. If you consider the metaphor, another approach would be to install NATIONWIDE at the existing gas stations charging possibilities (of course as well as EVERYWHERE else) – in the beginning are the loading stations.
  • Social Networks
    A social net offers advantages for the users, as soon as the right number of contents is available. However contents are only sufficiently shared, when the necessary number of users is connected. What comes first? The providers of the social nets avoid this dilemma by concentrating on the programming of the platform. They hope that an interesting platform lead to appropriate numbers of users, who will also provide contents. If you consider the metaphor, everything starts with the contents available. For this reason a sufficient number of articles should be provided in the beginning, so that the user numbers pass quickly the tipping point. Afterwards the contents of the users will lead to additional users – in the beginning the real focus are the contents.
  • New businesses
    New shops are opened up, if sufficient customers are available. However, customers are only won, if the business offers its deliverables. What comes first? If you consider the metaphor, the market is defined by companies that offer their products and services. Namely before the first customer can go to the shop. Therefore you cannot avoid launching an affair with the faith that sufficient customers will buy the deliverables. The success of the trade will be seen subsequently – in the beginning stands the launching of the firm.
  • Families with children
    Two lifetime partner want to have children, as soon as they can afford it. But they believe that they can only afford children, if somebody takes care of the children. What comes first? If you consider the metaphor, then families of different incomes always had children. The desire for having children results in a dramatic break-down of the family income on the one hand because one partner stops working for taking care of the children or because of the cost for the childcare. For this reason the family starts with the first child, since thereby the requirements adapt automatically to the new conditions – in the beginning are the children.

Bottom line: This metaphor helps finding solutions more easily for some of the chicken-and-egg problems. Fundamental changes always mean change from one into another condition. When deciding on the best solution the look at the history of the two alternatives helps, since changes have always similar forerunners. That way you find the smartest solution. The chicken-and-egg problem is the ideal metaphor for unclear causes and effects.