Upstream Summary 2023 - Deepstash

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Upstream Summary

About Upstream Book

Wall Street Journal Bestseller

New York Times bestselling author Dan Heath explores how to prevent problems before they happen, drawing on insights from hundreds of interviews with unconventional problem solvers.

So often in life, we get stuck in a cycle of response. We put out fires. We deal with emergencies. We stay downstream, handling one problem after another, but we never make our way upstream to fix the systems that caused the problems. Cops chase robbers, doctors treat patients with chronic illnesses, and call-center reps address customer complaints. But many crimes, chronic illnesses, and customer complaints are preventable. So why do our efforts skew so heavily toward reaction rather than prevention?

Upstream probes the psychological forces that push us downstream—including “problem blindness,” which can leave us oblivious to serious problems in our midst. And Heath introduces us to the thinkers who have overcome these obstacles and scored massive victories by switching to an upstream mindset. One online travel website prevented twenty million customer service calls every year by making some simple tweaks to its booking system. A major urban school district cut its dropout rate in half after it figured out that it could predict which students would drop out—as early as the ninth grade. A European nation almost eliminated teenage alcohol and drug abuse by deliberately changing the nation’s culture. And one EMS system accelerated the emergency-response time of its ambulances by using data to predict where 911 calls would emerge—and forward-deploying its ambulances to stand by in those areas.

Upstream delivers practical solutions for preventing problems rather than reacting to them. How many problems in our lives and in society are we tolerating simply because we’ve forgotten that we can fix them?

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Upstream by Dan Heath

4.6/5 (4747 reviews)

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DAN HEATH

When you spend years responding to problems, you can sometimes overlook the fact that you could be preventing them.

DAN HEATH

733

Upstream thinking

Downstream actions are reactions to problems. These efforts are fast and tangible.

Upstream actions attempt to prevent those problems from happening in the first place by systematically reducing the harm caused by those problems. These efforts are slower and broader. A sign of upstream work is that it uses systems thinking.

Example: You can offer a homeless person a meal today, but to figure out how to reduce evictions so that people don't become homeless might take years.

751

Examples of upstream thinking

  • Expedia: 58% of customers who booked travel on Expedia placed a call afterwards for a copy of their itinerary. No one was responsible for ensuring that customers didn't need to call for support. It was identified as an upstream problem. Once changes were in place, the need for customers to call for help decreased to 15%.
  • Dutch Bicycle Company: VanMoof regularly received complaints that many of its bikes were damaged during shipping. They started printing images of flat-screen televisions on their shipping boxes, thinking couriers would be more careful. It resulted in 70 - 80% less damage.

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This book is about how to build a good product

When you spend years responding to problems, you can sometimes overlook the fact that you could be preventing them.

DAN HEATH

4

Upstream thinking

Downstream actions are reactions to problems. These efforts are fast and tangible.

Upstream actions attempt to prevent those problems from happening in the first place by systematically reducing the harm caused by those problems. These efforts are slower and broader. A sign of upstream work is that it uses systems thinking.

Example: You can offer a homeless person a meal today, but to figure out how to reduce evictions so that people don't become homeless might take years.

4

Examples of upstream thinking

  • Expedia: 58% of customers who booked travel on Expedia placed a call afterwards for a copy of their itinerary. No one was responsible for ensuring that customers didn't need to call for support. It was identified as an upstream problem. Once changes were in place, the need for customers to call for help decreased to 15%.
  • Dutch Bicycle Company: VanMoof regularly received complaints that many of its bikes were damaged during shipping. They started printing images of flat-screen televisions on their shipping boxes, thinking couriers would be more careful. It resulted in 70 - 80% less damage.

4

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