Gary Oftedahl: Convergence–at least to a connector
If I were to write a book, I think it would have to somehow reflect what appears to be a universal sense of convergence. The more I read, and expose myself to new ideas, the more it becomes obvious to me that many books are recapitulations or reframing of previously described concepts and approaches.
That may be self evident to those smarter than me, as was once again highlighted, following my last blog. In that, I discussed the potential impact of “mindset” on our ability and willingness to change, grow, improve, and maximize our opportunities. I was reflecting on material taken from a book entitled Switch by Dan Heath—worth reading to better understand behavior change.
Earlier this week, I attended the National Council of Community Behavioral Health conference in Orlando—having been invited to speak about the challenges of leading change that we at ICSI had encountered in our DIAMOND initiative efforts. In all honesty, being somewhat of a star-struck individual, knowing Malcolm Gladwell was a keynoter got my attention. Now to many he’s a populist writer, glibly using anecdotes and stories to make points, perhaps not totally consistent with our focus on evidence-based medicine. Still, his messages have resonated with me, and an additional offer (which never materialized) to attend a special reception with him was the clincher in gaining my attendance.
In context, it must be said that initially reading The Tipping Point in 2001, and identifying myself as both a maven and a connector, was a “tipping point” in my career. His subsequent books, Blink and Outliers, were equally impactful on my susceptible psyche. So, the chance to hear him, to meet him, was enticing.
So what’s the connection to last week’s mindset posting. In his book Outliers and in his talk in Orlando, Gladwell discusses the issue of capitalization—the ability to maximize our abilities. He described three obstacles to achieving those that are important to recognize—poverty, stupidity, and attitudes.
I’ve personally experienced extreme poverty in my youth, have overcome stupidity on my part, and perhaps on many other’s parts, but that’s for another day. With regard to attitude, he raised issues that caused me to link his comments to my previous blog (once a connector always a connector). He addressed the impact that our attitude has on our ability to capitalize on opportunities.
If we believe that we have inherent talents and weaknesses, which are beyond our capacity to change, we are more prone to accept our lot in life. While we may succeed in a limited way, we will avoid taking on challenges that seem initially overwhelming. However, if we believe that we can improve, that hard work and intense effort can truly allow us to grow, we will have a much greater chance of succeeding in whatever task we take on. With that underlying belief in our ability to learn and improve, we will be more likely to take on new challenges and stretch ourselves.
As he discussed this, and highlighted it with an overview of the different cultural approach to mathematical problems seen in Oriental and Caucasian children, I was struck that “here it is again.” While using different words, this is what Heath and Carol Dweck call “Mindset” and has clear implications in our work in transforming the health care system.
If we take the attitude that we’re stuck in the system we’re in, have little opportunity to impact it, need to accept our limitations, we’re falling into that fixed mindset described by Dweck, and the limiting attitude elaborated on by Gladwell—but they’re the same issue. If we believe we can grow, improve, and have an opportunity to capitalize on the opportunity, we’ll take on challenges, occasionally fail, but learn from that and are more likely to succeed in the future.
It’s not at all clear where the preponderant mindset does or should lie in continuing to “tilt at windmills” we confront in changing the health care system. But it’s clear to me that the mindset we assume, the attitude we demonstrate, will have an impact on the chance, however slim it might be, to make a difference. With regard to my golf game, sorry, I’m a fixed mindset guy. Right or wrong, that’s the way I see it. But, with regard to health care, I’m clinging to the mindset and attitude which allows us to hope we can grow, change, improve, and capitalize on the “opportunities” which are being offered. I’m only hoping there’s not a third alternative—delusion—which may be affecting my thinking.