Tag Archives: health care debate

We Really Don’t Want to Change, says James Surowiecki

The Wisdom of Surowiecki

The Wisdom of Surowiecki

The subject matter is the health care debate.  But the underlying premise is about a much, much bigger issue.

That issue:  everyone’s opposition to change.  The author of the article is James Surowiecki, and his book The Wisdom of Crowds was one of the most memorable books I ever read.  He is thoughtful, thorough, and provocative.  Any company or organization that wants to understand how to pull and pool the wisdom from your people — your workers, your colleagues, your customers, your entire “tribe” — should read The Wisdom of Crowds.  (To take the next step, also check out Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams).

But in this article in the New Yorker, Status-Quo Anxiety, Surowiecki reminds us just how difficult it is to implement change.  Here are a couple of key quotes:
• the public’s skittishness about overhauling the system also reflects something else: the deep-seated psychological biases that make people resistant to change.
• when we think about change we focus more on what we might lose rather than on what we might get.

He argues that we are intensely protective of the status quo; we love it, we cherish it, we protect it, we overvalue it.  Even a culture that wants to change rallies to protect the status quo when change begins to look actually possible.


This is the message about change from Surowiecki, and it does not matter if the change is in the corporate world or in public policy.

I’ve posted before about the constant need to change.  You might want to read my post, (The Woes of MySpace)  The Future is Utterly Predictable – it is a Future of Constant Innovation.  But Surowiecki reminds us just how hard it is build and sustain a culture of constant innovation.

Read the article by Surowiecki.  Don’t think about the subject matter of the article (alone) – think about its implications for business, for innovation.  It is enlightening.

And think about all the ways that you are resistant to change.  I promise you, it is a long list.  It is for me.


• You can order my synopses of both The Wisdom of Crowds and Wikinomics, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15 Minute Business Books.

Health Care on the Back of the Napkin

A while back, Karl Krayer presented the synopsis of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam.  It presents a really clear and simple way to communicate your key points.

The Health Care Debate on a Napkin

The Health Care Debate on a Napkin

If you would like to see the author’s attempt to explain the health care debate (with the aid of a Doctor), take a look at his slide show here — all on the back of a few napkins. It is pretty enlightening, mostly devoid of controversy, and will help you think through the issues.

(I learned of this from Andrew Sullivan’s blog, who linked to Cool Infographics).