(This article originally appeared in Entrepreneur)
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In the UK, 84 million socks go missing every month — an average of 1.3 socks per person. Assuming the average Brit lives to the age of 81, that adds up to 1,264 lost socks over a lifetime for a cumulative cost of £2,528, or about $3,500.
Those statistics come courtesy of a study conducted by Samsung in 2016 to promote the introduction of a new washing machine. But we know this, right? We all experience sock loss. And yet no one seems to know why. Well, according to the scientific team at Samsung, here’s the reason: It’s the complexity of the washing load.
But wait. That’s not the only reason.
It’s also related to the number of socks in each wash cycle. It’s also because sometimes socks fall behind radiators and furniture without anyone noticing. Or because socks are added to the wrong color batch and then get separated from its matching sock. Or it’s because the sock isn’t securely fastened to a washing line. Or, more simply, they’re carelessly paired up by distracted humans.
There are psychological reasons, too. The researchers found that when a task — like doing the laundry — is shared among a group, “the tendency is for individuals to assume someone else will take responsibility, so no one does and socks get lost.” They also found that people tend to give up looking quickly when they can’t find something in a place they would normally expect it to be. Sometimes we’re in denial about sock loss. Or we inadvertently leave a sock on the bedroom floor or kick it out of site.
The researchers also surmise that more socks are lost when men do the wash because we take less pride in the activity than women. They also blame colored socks, which “make up the majority of missing socks (55%), compared to other types (including white and patterned items), which make up the remainder.”
Does any of this answer the missing sock question? Of course not. And yes. That’s because there’s no one reason behind any problem, be it a missing sock, an irate customer, a faulty piece of machinery or an employee’s performance.
That irate customer may be irate because he’s had multiple bad experiences with your company, or he’s using the product wrong, or he didn’t read the manuals. The faulty piece of machinery may be due to lack of maintenance, or a bad part, or a material being run on it that should not be. That employee’s poor performance may be due to her lack of education, a bad supervisor or something going on in her personal life. Actually, like a missing sock, it’s probably a combination of all of those things over a period of time. Or other things I’m not thinking about.
Problems are created by people. And people are complicated. You can’t just say that something happened because of this one reason. When something happens it’s always because of a multitude of things that caused it to happen.
So take this lesson to help solve all of your business problems. Understand that there’s never a silver bullet that will fully answers a question, resolves an issue or fixes a problem. As a business owner, your job is to break down all of the reasons that could be behind a problem occurring. Then you need to think about those reasons, evaluate and prioritize their likely impact and then figure out the best approach to resolve the problem by tackling the more pertinent ones.
So what about your missing sock? It’s probably under your bed, dummy. Geez!