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What you don’t know CAN hurt you… so don’t shoot the messenger.

longitude AND lattitudeIn seafaring days before the puzzle of calculating accurate longitudes was solved by the accuracy of John Harrison’s chronograph in the 18th Century, as author Dana Sobel puts it in her book entitled Longitude, “every great captain in the Age of Exploration became lost at sea despite the best available charts and compasses.” In fact, she goes on to explain, “they all got to where they were going willy-nilly, by forces attributed to good luck or the Grace of God.”

To accurately know where you are, you must have at least two points of reference in on a two dimensional map, and three points in space. But in business, we need many more points to not only know where we are but where we are going, and where we really should be going.

How many points of reference do you have?

In my own business I now have many points of reference. I seek assistance from friends, mentors, and paid consultants. All contribute to my overall knowledge of my position and direction of travel.

It wasn’t always this way. In my surgical practice, I had far fewer points of reference. And often, they were perspectives of other physicians, not much different than my own. And it was easy to get lost.

Looking at the “business of medicine” I now realize that it is simply too complicated for any one person to both drive a “business of medicine” while keeping up with the demands of the “practice of medicine” if there is to be time for family and self.

Paraphrasing Thomas Edison “seek others for counsel, the more diverse the better.”  He was right. Having multiple perspectives allows insights that can be invaluable.

Sometimes you may not agree with the perspectives, but that doesn’t make it less valuable than a consensus. A classic example of “shooting the messenger” occurred in September of 1707 when Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell was leading five British warships home after a victorious assault on Gibraltar and engagements with the French in the Mediterranean. While he correctly knew his longitude, latitude calculations, always notoriously inaccurate, were fatally off. He mistook his position to be safely west of the Scilly Islands near the Southwest tip of England. Despite consensus, they were wrong. Only one of the five warships survived and over 2,000 seamen lost their lives because of this mistake. But the first to die was an unnamed seaman who had, against regulation, been calculating longitude on his own. So concerned with his conclusions was this man that he volunteered his opinion to the Admiral and was immediatly found guilty of insubordination and summarily hung for mutiny less than 24 hours before the fleet ran aground in fog. On the lighter side, there is a suggestion to have a ‘Sir Clowdisley Shovell Right to Manage’ Award for those who would also shoot, (hang), the messenger.

As physicians, we too often have the propensity to discount opinions differing from our own. It pays to keep an open mind to the ideas of others. Compliance officers, coders, nurses, administrators… all with their own expertise and skill sets can help our businesses of healthcare. When other “dots of healthcare” don’t agree with us, that’s a good thing. Actually, it can be a GREAT thing if we can appreciate their take on a issue and make the most of their expertise. Certainly we should refraindon't run up on the rocks! from shooting the messenger like the Admiral. Or we may just end up on the rocks too.

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