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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What would it take?

I loved the homework my daughter brought home yesterday from her math class:

  • Why do we count using base 10?
  • Who decided that?
  • Why are there 360 degrees in a circle?
  • Who decided that?
  • Why is a full revolution 2π?
  • Who decided that?

And finally:  Why is this material not in our math curriculum?

She was able to find (or come up with) the answers to these questions (with some difficulty).  What I really liked about the approach is that it made her think about why we do things the way we do, and to understand the weight of history.

All too often in Healthcare IT (and in healthcare, or in IT, or just in general), these sorts of questions are unasked, or when they are asked, the answer is unsatisfactory.  Why do we count in base 10?  Because just about everyone did it that way at the dawn of time, because we have 10 fingers (most of us), because the ___ did it that way and they civilized ___ all seem somehow unsatisfactory.

The followup to Why? is often: "Is there a better way we could do it?"  While it may be often asked, it's also often rejected with "Because we've always done it that way.", with the implication that "It would cost us too much to change, for so little benefit [to us]."

The real question change agents need to ask is:  "What would it take to get you to agree to change the status quo?"  The answers may surprise you.


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