Saturday, April 24, 2010

Differences Between Business & Medicine

Author: Bob Priddy, President of third_Evolution.

I was recently writing a note to a client and I started a sentence by saying, “You need to appreciate the essential differences between business thinking and physician thinking.” As I continued I began with, “business values risk taking…” and so a list ensued, and I decided it was a message more than my client needed to hear.

What follows is not an exhaustive list, it’s certainly not scientifically verifiable, but it’s a reasonable opinion from a reasonable business person – me. As I thought about this, and I must admit even during the course of writing the article, I found myself adding descriptive words or phrases based on the hundreds of physicians I’ve spoken with over the last seven years, not to mention those I worked with during the previous 23 years in hospital and healthcare administration.

What I’d like you to do with this list is fill in the “You” column with an “up” or “down” arrow: “up” for yes I embrace this and “down” for no, it’s a negative or I can’t/don’t want to think this way. See how many of the business genes you carry. Next add to the list based on your own experience. What personal assets or behavioral genetic predispositions do you have? Do you believe business would embrace them and see them as an “Up” or “Down” arrow? What about other physicians – how do you believe the profession as a whole would respond?

After you finish your list compare these behaviors to jobs in which you’re interested. You can usually find job descriptions at, and others.

What are you’re going to find? You’re probably a mix. You probably have behaviors that will transfer well to the business world and you likely have some that won’t. What’s critical is knowing the differences and appreciating that some perspectives you have will either represent a challenge or may offer you some relief.

For example, being a risk taking physician is certainly not a positive in the exam room or the OR. But, in business risk taking is encouraged – measured risks, that is. On the up side, as a client of mine once commented after leaving practice and entering the business world, “no matter what I do now, nobody is going to die!” In fact, the entire environment of risk, failures, trial and error take on new meaning. Physicians who’ve seen themselves as creative can now be more free to creatively experiment. You’ll likely find areas were you easily and freely adapt. But there will also likely be predispositions that are difficult to overcome, and frankly some of those predispositions can be positives. Business could really benefit from some physician thinking.

So, take the test and see how easily you’ll fit with your new business colleagues.

About the author:

Bob Priddy is President of third_Evolution. You can contact him at

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