In its simplest form, an ex machina is a plot device that allows for the sudden and unexpected resolution of a story. The term comes from the Latin phrase deus ex machina, which literally means “god from the machine.” This refers to the ancient Greek practice of using a crane (or machine) to lower actors playing gods onto the stage in order to resolve a play’s conflict. Today, the term is used more broadly to describe any instance where a problem is suddenly and inexplicably solved. This can be dissatisfying for readers or viewers, who may feel that the resolution was contrived or unrealistic.

In business and in life, a contrived solution tends to not be effective because it ignores the fundamental problem. The resolution might be satisfying at the moment, but it doesn’t address the root cause of the conflict.

Before you start working to fix a situation, make sure that you clearly identify and define the problem that needs to be solved. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort down the road.

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