A false choice perhaps – but let me first tell you a short story…
Four years ago an ageing man finds his eyesight is deteriorating. He goes to the optician who refers him to the doctor, who refers him to a specialist. The specialist makes a diagnosis and prescribes various drops. To no effect. After a couple of years of medication, MRI scans and consultations with many other specialists including neurosurgeons, the experts conclude that the man needs an operation on his pituitary gland to relieve pressure on his optic nerve.
Apparently this is a standard operation, but not necessarily without danger for an old man with heart problems and high blood pressure.
Fast forward to yesterday. The man is admitted to hospital for the operation. The neurosurgeon’s team send him to the ophthalmologists for some final checks. And an intelligent ophthalmologist takes a look at his eye condition and asks – why have they put you in for surgery? She concludes that the original diagnosis and treatment was probably wrong. That surgery is not the answer, but rather a different medication regime.
The man, his wife and son (me) look on in bewilderment and amazement. Psyched up and ready to face the operation and its consequences, we now find the experts saying no – try the course of treatment instead and let’s see what happens.
Thank goodness for an intelligent person – someone who is prepared to question, to challenge, to avoid following the well trodden path that can develop as we become more and more experienced. Someone who looks at the situation with fresh eyes and works to avoid perceiving every problem as a reflection of previous problems. Someone who is aware of the danger of applying the ‘normal’ solution to the problem because it’s the way she always does it.
And perhaps there is a bigger lesson here for those of us in organisations.
How often do we assume that the latest set of challenges is similar to those we have previously experienced? How often do we then turn to the previous answers and expect them to work again?
How often are we prepared to challenge ourselves about what it is we may be missing? How often do we listen to those with alternative views of the situation?
Even when they are less experienced…but perhaps more intelligent?