Lesson From My ONE Day of Medical School

by Adam Kreitman

It may sound odd for someone (such as yours truly) who tries very hard to avoid blood, vomit, shots, etc. to find themselves in medical school. But that’s exactly where I found myself about 20 years ago… for ONE day.

Knowing my general squeamishness with most things medical, I knew enough to not actually APPLY to medical school. But I found myself dating (and eventually marrying) someone who did apply to, and attend, medical school. So on one occasion, for reasons I can’t remember (other than being young and in love), I tagged along with her to a special weekend class the med students had to attend.

The professor was a medical ethicist and one topic he lectured about really caught my attention. It was about the difference between treating symptoms vs. addressing the ROOT cause of an illness or injury.  Hearing him talk about it, it seemed like an obvious issue but was not one I had really thought about before his lecture.

The gist of what he said was that many of the treatments doctors prescribe and/or administer do a good job of reducing or eliminating the symptoms a patient is experiencing. However, he said that doctors generally don’t spend enough time with patients to ask the probing questions that would let them dig down to try to uncover and address any underlying issues that may actually be causing the symptoms the patient is experiencing.

An example he gave was treating abdominal pain and cramping or anemia… but not understanding that these symptoms are being caused by lead poisoning. A doctor can offer treatment to lessen the effect of these symptoms, but without uncovering and addressing the lead exposure issue, the patient will keep battling these symptoms.

The ethicist’s point in this lecture was to make the med students aware that, while they are learning about effective treatments for a wide range of medical issues, there may be more going on with a patient than meets the eye.

(And, by the way, this issue is not squarely on the doctor’s shoulders… a health care system that favors speed and profits as well as patients who actively seek a quick fix/magic pill so they don’t have to change their lifestyle certainly are big contributors here.)

That said, I am not sharing this with you to get into a whole discussion about our society and modern day medicine.

The reason I AM sharing this with you is that we often do something very similar in our businesses…

We often make decisions that may temporarily alleviate the symptoms of problems we face but don’t do anything about the underlying causes (often because we don’t see or understand them).

Here are a few examples:

1. A business owner who is constantly running around putting out fire after fire.

You might try to address this issue by working longer hours, hiring someone to help you out or even by cutting corners on some things at work or home to try to give yourself some breathing room.

However, we usually fail to address the underlying cause of our constantly putting out fires in our businesses which is we don’t have systems in place to make things operate more effectively and efficiently. (Which, as I’ve written about before, the fix usually involves creating a set of written, documented procedures.)

2. An employee who doesn’t seem to be pulling their weight.

The easy thing to do is fire them. But maybe the underlying problem is that your company doesn’t have a good training system in place for new employees. Or maybe the problem runs even deeper than that… it could be your hiring process that’s at fault and you hired the wrong person for the job (or the right person that you have doing the wrong job for their skill set).

3. An AdWords campaign (or any marketing campaign, for that matter) that isn’t producing an ROI.

The quick, easy thing to do is pull the plug on the campaign and assume that AdWords doesn’t work. But often the real problem is that your landing page/website/messaging is weak and does not resonate with your prospects. Or you may not have a strong sales system in place and the way you and/or your employees handle incoming leads is to blame because you are unable to close as much business as you should be if you had some proper sales training.

Next time you have a problem in your business, stop and think about what the ROOT cause of it is instead of coming up with a temporary, knee-jerk solution.

Because if you just try to take the quick, band-aid approach that addresses the symptoms, you’ll end up dealing with the same problems over and over again.

However, if you can go a level deeper and pinpoint the root cause of the problem, then you can develop a system that has a much better shot of being an effective long term solution that eliminates the problem once and for all.

Taking that approach may be just what the doctor ordered!

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