Your thinking is obsolete. But your knowledge isn’t

When you make the decision to solve big problems you inevitably hit the question
“There are so many smart people working in this industry, why haven’t they fixed it?”

Whilst this question is possibly one of the oldest in business it never ceases to surprise me how blinkered smart people can become.
It struck me recently that whilst the depth of their expertise and knowledge was vastly superior to my own. I suddenly realised that it was the way they think that had become obsolete they had become the proverbial hammer always looking for nails.
It doesn’t matter how smart a hammer is, it isn’t very good at doing much else.
We’ve had two conversations that completely blew me away how obsolete someones thinking had become.
The first was with a very large medical device provider who were telling us about how NHS contracts are changing. In essence the NHS is finally moving to outcome based contracts rather than a per unit contract.
What this means is that if providing any treatment to a patient whether it be a pill or a device has to show how it improved the patients life. Now that is quite a fuzzy idea because it is based on lots of complex factors from how the person is feeling on the day they answer the questions to how the questions are asked.
However we think that this is the start to actually working on the patient experience rather than treating each intervention as somehow distinct from everything else.
So I asked this company how they were going to handle this and they were really excited because for the first time they could control the entire process.

Wow I thought this is great they are free of bureaucracy and can really implement all this incredible knowledge they have.

Here is how the conversation went

“So how are you going to deal with these new contracts”

“Well we’ve realised that we’re going to need a new clinic in the community”

“Great, local services are really important”

“And it is going to have a car park”

“Right yes that is important especially in places with poor public transport and people that have serious mobility needs”

“Oh and we’re going to have a TV in the waiting room”
*period of silence as I waited for the rest*
“OK so a clinic with car parking and a TV. So when was the last time you spoke to users?”

“Oh we asked the NHS when we won the contract 20 years ago that we wanted to interview users. But they said they’d do it for us and we never heard back”

*another uncomfortable silence*
The other was someone who had had to work with health economists exploring the impact of 3D printing
“We can’t use 3D printing it is too expensive”
“Well yes it is on a unit cost but what about all of the cost savings on time and quality”
“We don’t measure that”
“But what about all the repeat appointments, the days of work, the days of school, the stress”
“We only measure the hard economic factors” *stunned silence*
These are just two example of conversations that leave me bewildered, I often don’t know what to say next.
I’ve realised there are two common threads that pervade all of these conversations 1) It is too hard 2) It is someone else’s fault it is so hard

How do we solve this?

We often mistake the term expert with having very broad knowledge, which can lead to an over estimation of their problem solving ability. There is also a general assumption that experts are able to collaborate well. In my experience so far there is correlation between the two.

At Andiamo we’ve realised that there is a distinction between knowledge and the application of it e.g. facts vs contextual thinking.

We identify knowledge and ways of thinking that lend themselves to the problems we are solving.

For example we deal with how something fits on your body. Who else knows about that? Well the fashion industry and especially the shoe industry really understands this area.

In fact our latest back brace was designed by Earl Stewart who has done some amazing work designing 3D printed shoes.

That is part of the reason we’ve started planning the Co-Create conference. We need to help connect the dots and connect people. Problem experts need technical experts to help them identify solutions.

We need to tap the wealth of experience and expertise outdoor and mix it with an education of what is now possible.

It is time to start applying new thinking to old knowledge.