Causal Reductionism

When “the reason” isn’t the reason.


Our world is complex, and so are the reasons behind what we observe. Take a seemingly simple question: Why does an apple fall from a tree? You might say "gravity" and be technically right. But the full story includes the apple's mass, the stem's health, and even the weather conditions.

We love simple answers. They're fast, easy to remember, and easy to share. But when it comes to politics, media, or business, things are more complex. Often, they boil down issues to one cause, which isn't usually the full story.

The success of a strategy, the effectiveness of public policies, or an employee's performance — often we link these things to “the” (one) reason. But in reality, there are almost always a whole bunch of reasons at play.

Personal choices, the environment, and others' reactions all contribute to a rapidly expanding web of influences.

To test for causal reductionism, ask the following two questions:

  1. Is there a scenario in which “the reason” wouldn’t lead to this outcome?
  2. Is there a scenario in which this outcome could be reality even if “the reason” isn’t there?

If the answer is yes to either one of these, you have a case of causal reductionisms. Spotting this can save you from misleading conclusions and premature decisions.

Something New 👇


My Insights From 10+ Years As A Startup Executive

  • A 10-part series with novel perspectives on making yourself more interesting.
  • Weekly frameworks, models, and insights for better management, and (self-) leadership.
  • My top 1% of books and podcasts in one list.
  • 50 creative ChatGPT prompts for everyday work.

Check it out now →

All for free if you sign up to A-Player Models.