In Western Medicine there is a great tendency to focus on symptoms by prescribing drugs that make people feel better. Yet, many of those drugs carry side effects, which lead to additional problems that require more drugs, which perpetuates a need for even more symptom fighting efforts.

Chinese Medicine tends to deal more with root causes by focusing on the source of discomfort. Other modalities collectively referred to as “alternative medicine” employ the same approach.

In our recent political campaign I observed a great amount of attention being paid to unpleasant or undesirable symptoms that need to be addressed, the two most prevalent being the need for more jobs and a stronger economy. I didn’t see much discussion related to the root causes of those conditions, rather suggestions for quick fixes, or why the ideas of one party are better than the other.

In business there is also a tendency to address symptoms and avoid the causes. For example, when sales are slacking and expenses are up, a common approach is to cut costs, trim staff and lean on the sales team to do more. Which brings to mind a famous Albert Einstein quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It’s interesting that in medicine we call the process of addressing root causes “alternative,” and in business we view those thought leaders that speak to the need to take care of all our stakeholders as being ‘really out there.’ Stakeholder relationship management: caring for the mutual interests of customers, vendors, suppliers, employees, community, shareholders and investors equally. We know this works because we see it over an over again, and yet there is a resistance to suggest that we place a priority on anything but profit, even though we know this doesn’t work.

Similar to wanting a pill to make us feel better instead of listening to the “alternative” practitioners that tell us we need to reduce our stress, exercise regularly and make significant changes in the way we eat. One way is easy; one way is strenuous and uncomfortable. One way works, the other prolongs the inevitable.

If sales are down and expenses are up, what is the strenuous and uncomfortable path to financial health? Is it cutting costs and proverbially banging on the heads of the sales team, or looking at the health of our corporate culture, the quality of our product, our customer care, our environmental practices, brand perception and sense of community? Which way will you choose?