2012 and 2013 present an opportunity for health care executives to produce significant change. If we hope to be, as Buckminister Fuller said, “Architects of the future, not its victims,” we have to change the way we think in specific ways.
How do you learn to “Think Different” as Steve Jobs’ famous ads put it?
Let’s think about the structure of thought for a moment. The great experimental psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his recent book Thinking, Fast and Slow, shows how much of our thinking and decision making is driven by illusions and assumptions, such as the “illusion of validity” (the false belief in the reliability of our own judgment), the “availability bias” (a biased judgment based on memories that are more easily available or more vivid) and the “endowment effect” (the tendency to value something more highly when we own it than when someone else owns it).
This makes sense. Kahneman’s analysis resonates strongly with my experience working with executive health care teams, including providers, health plans and suppliers, and with governments in North America, Europe and China over several decades. Smart, seasoned executives can make seriously poor judgments, especially when the environment changes.
Curiously, these illusions and biases and assumptions are driven by our experiences. So being more experienced does not necessarily exempt us from illusion, unless something in our process constantly and directly tests the results of our judgments (as, say, a robust retail market does on price setting). Even if the judgments are correct, they are based on an environment: in the jungle or the savannah, in a controlled market or a retail market, in a risk-bearing business arrangement or an endowed business arrangement. When our environment shifts, the illusions and biases and assumptions persist, even though they may be dangerously out of date.