The Wrong Diagnosis means the Wrong Remedy

The Wrong Diagnosis means the Wrong Remedy

We tend to revere our clinicians as towering experts in their fields. So how often do you think doctors misdiagnose? How often might your doctor tell you that you have some illness or condition, but it’s not right? For example, a doctor might diagnose the flu, but the patient really has something much more serious – like Lyme Disease.

You might be surprised.  Dr. Elizabeth Burton, a medical scholar and director of autopsy pathology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas says experts find a 40% misdiagnosis rate. Out of those 40%, about 10 to 12% are really serious – some resulting in avoidable death. We know this because autopsies reveal the real causes of death.

Dr. Mark Graber, Chief of medical services at the Long Island Veterans hospital, studies the issue of misdiagnosis and sees the problem partly stemming from overconfidence.

The problem is widespread outside of medicine. Confident experts, professionals and managers are quick to jump to the wrong conclusions. If we raise our price and see sales go down then we automatically conclude that the first led to the second. But we may well have misdiagnosed the problem. There may have been a completely different reason why sales declined – like competition or seasonal factors.

Einstein is reputed to have said, ‘If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes analysing the problem and 5 minutes coming up with a solution.’ We tend to do the opposite. We assume we know the cause and then charge ahead designing remedies for the wrong issue. We need to find the root cause of the problem before even starting to think about possible solutions.

Air travel has dramatically improved its safety record over the last 50 years (much more so than hospitals say). The main reason is that after every plane crash there is a thorough investigation by experts to determine the exact cause of the crash. The findings and recommendations for improvement are then shared worldwide.

Most people in middle to senior positions in organisations are charged with solving problems. Yet they are generally not trained in problem analysis techniques. Consequently they often fall prey to making assumptions, jumping to conclusions and applying the wrong remedies.  Innovators need to comprehensively understand the problem they are trying to solve with their innovation.

I teach problem analysis methods and the ones I find most helpful are Why, Why? Six Serving Men, Fishbone Diagram and the Lotus Blossom technique. They and more are covered in detail in this online training course.

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Paul-Sloane-780812Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation, and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane

Paul Sloane




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