Avoid preconceptions; it’s not always the obvious answer

by Edward Henkler on May 7, 2013

A recent Smithsonian Magazine article, by Andrew Curry, reminds me why preconceptions cause us problems.  Andrew identifies a surprising difference in health between the populations of Finland and Russian Karelia, although they live in virtually identical climates and share a closely linked genetic heritage.  The rate of Type I diabetes in Finland is six times the incidence in Karelia, while the standard of living in Finland is seven times higher than in the Russian city.

What gives?  The theory, which is still being tested, is that the children in Finland are not exposed to enough dirt.  Their immune systems have been compromised by living in too pristine an environment.  It isn’t about diet, healthcare, or the many other differences driven by standard of living.  It is about an immune system which has been weakened by the lack of exposure to dirt and all that resides therein.

Who would think too little exposure to dirt could cause higher rates of Type 1 diabetes?

Who would think too little exposure to dirt could cause higher rates of Type 1 diabetes?

Before you challenge the contention, let me remind you that my background is not in healthcare.  My point is that we tend to jump to “obvious” answers, whether we are solving a business problem or attempting to guess another person’s intentions.  We derive comfort by jumping to tried and true solutions but may be missing the underlying cause.  In process improvement, we are told to ask five questions to get to the root cause.  In an earlier post, I asked you to consider the other person’s perspective as you interact.  Perhaps they never intended you harm….until you verbally attacked them.  Note that I’m taking the high road and hoping you didn’t go beyond a verbal attack.

The bottom line is to consider the non-obvious solution.  In Finland, perhaps a little more dirt is needed….  What changes are need in your business and personal interactions?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Laura W May 3, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Thanks for sharing this article, Ed. It’s a great analogy.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: