A 1% solution is a misnomer

This blog is my scratchboard. Like all of us, I have thoughts that seem to make a lot of sense. After I write them out, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. This time they didn’t turn out as I had thought. Either way, writing about them helps me understand better. If they make sense, I share with you and hopefully they help you. At least in this case I am sharing what I learned.

If you find these posts useful, it is another way I practice paneugenesis by engaging in selfish, selfless, synergy. I am being selfish, because I help myself, selfless, by helping you, and synergistic because it helps us improve comprehensiveness of the world which may lead to creative solutions.

I encourage all of you to do the same to see if your sudden thoughts are an epiphany, which is a sudden insight, that can stand up to scrutiny. I had one of those sudden thoughts after listening to two podcasts. The first was I listened to was on Freakonomics, How to Fix the Hot Mess of U.S. Healthcare (Ep. 456). During this broadcast the discussed the 1% solutions for Health Care Reform led by Zack Cooper and Fiona Scott Morton at Yale.

In this presentation it was indicated that they were having trouble getting traction because leaders want to improve by 15%, not 1%. They indicated they were not interested if the change could not be more impactful. As explained in the Freakonomics podcast:

…I got off the stage and a senior executive came up and said, “Hey, this is great, but we don’t want research that tells us how to save 1 percent. We want you to do the research that tells us how to save 15 percent.” 

COOPER: “There isn’t stuff that saves 15 percent. It’s a series of half-percent or 1 percent steps.”

Cooper and Morton rightly countered that implementing many of these 1% solutions would make a significant positive impact. This led to the One-Percent Steps for Healthcare Reform Project

The other podcast I listened to was from the W. Edwards Deming Institute: Deming Lens #46 – The Art of Tampering.

In this podcast they reminded listeners about the importance of variation in systems that are from either common or special causes. Variation makes the outcomes less predictable, decreases quality and increases cost. The point was that if they attempted to decrease variation incorrectly, they would be tampering with the system by using misguided efforts to decrease variation. Tampering results in even worse outcomes.

The Deming Institute provides information about variation in the Knowledge of Variation post. On this page, it is explained that common cause variation is the natural result of the system. In contrast, special cause variations represents a unique event that is outside the system: for example, a natural disaster. Knowledge of variation can help people learn why something went right or wrong and what to do about it. Control charts can be used to determine if there its a common or special cause in the process.

Eliminating variation, be it from common or special causes, dramatically improves the outcome quality. Quality processes determined that 94% of the causes of poor outcomes are common causes. This means most improvement can be made by improving the normal processes. It also must be understood that unique improvement strategies must be used to eliminate either common or special causes.

I skipped over a lot about common and special cause variation. I thought I had an epiphany from reviewing and listening to Freakonomics about 1% solutions and Deming about common causes and special causes. The overlap is that most of the 1% solutions are common cause solutions, or regular process improvements which should be regular continuous process improvement methods.

I shared the post with a Deming Expert, Allen Scott and he made me aware of the error in my thinking. He shared my understanding was not up to date. As Dr. Wheeler explained,

This whole dichotomy of special causes being external to the system and common causes being internal to the system, and who is responsible for them,is simply nonsense that does not hold water.

Allen Scott also pointed out, “

I watched the video.  A 1% anything is questionable.  Probably meaningless variation.  There will be a variation up and down.  Things will vary by more than 1%. Then he quoted Shewhart,
“The measure of quality no matter what the definition of quality may be is a variable.” (Shewhart, 1931)

Most importantly he explained, “The changes they speak of can only be proven or disproven statistically and the percent will then be found out.  How will they know a one percent improvement is something they did and not a routine fluctuation? …A one percent change in any measure is probably routine (no difference).  In math 2 numbers can be different and not the same.  In analysis two numbers can be different and yet the same (homogeneous). The central question in improvement and analysis is homogeneity. The improvement must breach control limits to signal an improvement.  That could be one percent or fifteen percent.  We have to make a plot to know.” 

My take away, 1% is probably mislabeled. It is probably just normal variation and it cannot be known without measures. If we want to improve, we should focus on continually improving the system in ways that are pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, and synergistic so everyone and everything benefits. We should continually ask, by what method might this work better? Critical thinking is key and asking experts (see Stop the Death of Expertise) will enable us to continually improve the process.

Please share your thoughts, what is your best technique for learning from experts?

Acknowledgement: Big Thank you to Allen Scott for his expert advice, with the help of Don Wheeler, for helping me with this post.

Be Well’r,

Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.

A Way to Practice Paneugenesis

Please know this is not an advertisement and I do not receive and compensation for any of my recommendations. I suggest things that work for me. I let you know about them because they may also be good for you and if more of us use these ideas, we all benefit.

This suggestions relates to something my girls got my wife as a present. Soyabella® Automatic Nut & Seed Milk Maker

Like many people, we enjoy plant based milks. We were buying cartons quite often. We bought this milk maker and a bag of soybeans in December and have not had to buy another carton of milk, although our supply of beans is starting to get low. The milk is good, it is easy to make, it saves money and benefits the planet. We also have used it to grind coffee beans and this enables us to enjoy good coffee. We also know our milk and coffee have no additives.

The soyabella helps us practice paneugenesis because I benefit with convenient milk and coffee at a lower price. I save time because I take less trips to the store to buy milk. It is also helps me be selfless because we don’t use as much material to package the milk and less trucks have to burn gas to drop off the milk at the store. This also means we are able to contribute to a healthier planet which can benefit everyone and everything.

Some may complain it means less jobs, however in my view this is required and forces us to redesign reality. This will require us to evolve toward a better and more sustainable way to live on this planet. Our goal has to be to find ways to prosper and work that promote and enable pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

We must be creative and design idealized outcomes so everyone and everything benefits. As Simon Sinek recently posted:

Intelligence uses what is known to solve problems. Creativity uses what is unknown to discover possibilities.

If you have one or decide to get a soyabella, please share your experience. Also please help us learn ways you have learned to practice paneugenesis by engaging in pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits!

Be Well’r,

Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.

Stop the Death of Expertise

I recently read Tom Nichols The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. He had originally written this essay, also titled “The Death of Expertise”, as a precursor to the book. If you find the essay interesting, which I did, I recommend you read the book.

He also documents the importance of trusting others. Specialization is good, we get higher quality and it means we do not need to know everything, which we couldn’t anyway. This also means we need to have trust. Even better, we can be part of the solution when we become experts in our own domain. Experts empower selfish, selfless, synergistic actions. #SelfishSelflessSynergy

I liked the final points in his essay about things to think about with regard to interactions with experts. His book does a great job explaining and describing all these points. He writes:

“Here, presented without modesty or political sensitivity, are some things to think about when engaging with experts in their area of specialization.

Tom Nichols, Death of Expertise

We can all stipulate: the expert isn’t always right.

But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, it shouldn’t engender insecurity or anxiety to think that an expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours. (Because, likely, it is.)

Experts come in many flavors. Education enables it, but practitioners in a field acquire expertise through experience; usually the combination of the two is the mark of a true expert in a field. But if you have neither education nor experience, you might want to consider exactly what it is you’re bringing to the argument.

In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.

And yes, your political opinions have value. Of course they do: you’re a member of a democracy and what you want is as important as what any other voter wants. As a layman, however, your political analysis, has far less value, and probably isn’t — indeed, almost certainly isn’t — as good as you think it is.”

I also provided the review below on GoodReads.com and Google Books to encourage more to read this important book:

Death of Expertise is a Great book. There are so many valuable insights, I strongly encourage you to read the book. I can only highlight a few I thought were of value.

He explains, expertise is not dead but it and respect for it is on life support. The main idea I got from the book was how people are mixing up the fact that everybody’s vote counts the same in this country with the idea that our opinions are of equal value. As he points out, in clear detail, experts are of great value, importance and service to society. They help us make sense of the flood of information available. For example, he appreciates dentists because he knows even on a dentists worst day and on his best, his ability to dentistry would be wholly lacking despite what he could read on the internet.

Yes everybody can have an opinion, but educated opinions from schooling and experience are of significantly greater value and it has been what has made our lives possible. It is the ability of people to become experts at different functions that allows us to have a higher quality of life. Nobody can do everything well. Yes we could all probably build our own houses as they did in days past, but then the quality of our houses would be severely lacking for most who not have the requisite expertise.

He also suggests that much loss of respect for expertise seems to be a way to protect fragile egos. As he notes, everything is not a matter of opinion, some things are right and wrong. Yes, sometimes experts are wrong, but is rare and that is why it is news. We all must understand we can be wrong. Some of this problem has been fed by the media that now focuses more on entertaining than on informing and fact-checking. Of course the internet is a huge source of problems because all the information appears to be of equal value despite about 90% of the information on the internet being incorrect. Deciphering what is right and what is wrong is difficult for a layperson. For example, he notes the public claims they have been misled to which experts and policy makers respond, “how would you know?”

This relates to his discussion of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This effect helps us understand why the least informed are the most confident in opinions. They are confident, though wrong, because they do not have the understanding to know there information is insufficient. I am sure if you are reading this blog, you know how much you do not know, but it is still easy for all of us to point out mistakes and to believe we have a more thorough understanding than we do. That is the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Predictions by experts are hard because science helps explain and understand more than predict. It is also hard to predict because it is impossible to account for all possible intervening factors. Predictions by experts, however, are almost always much better than by those less informed. Of course there are time when uninformed get it right, but it is rare. The difference in how often experts or laypersons are right would dramatically impact our lives and we are better because we more often rely on experts.

Death of Expertise in Higher Education
He also provides a great chapter about Higher Education. As a professor I especially appreciated this information. He suggests it is important to universities to focus on helping students become more self-reliant and resist knowledge being viewed as a consumer good for students purchase. As he points out in one example, it is easier for students to email the professor with a question than to find the answer themselves. Students often think of emailing a professor like communicating with a customer service department, this however does not help students become more self-reliant. There are also more difficulties because if the professor pushes students to do their own work, they may come back with a “customer is always right” retort, putting higher education in a precarious position.

To me this is one reason society should help support higher education more so students are not forced to go into debt to get a university education. Higher education should be seen more as a privilege and societal obligation to improve. He was concerned that students are being taught to be picky consumers rather than critical thinkers. He is also concerned that students are learning that feelings matter more than rationality and facts because often emotion trumps everything else.

Throughout the book, he also emphasized that facts, which can be obtained on the internet, is not the same as knowledge or ability. I teach an Applied Principles class and students are always amazed how difficult it is to apply what seems like common sense information.

In his discussion of “Wisdom of Crowds” he acknowledges that the average of many guesses, like for the weight of a pig, will be very accurate. This suggests crowds can have wisdom but it does not mean all in the crowd are wise. While this suggests the Wisdom of Crowds is valuable, it does not mean crowds should run society. A wisdom of crowds does not translate well into creating a coherent policy. Small groups of experts are needed for that because they are needed to aggregate the publics irresolvable demands.

As I noted, there is so much good in this book, I could only skim the surface of what I found interesting and of value. I strongly recommend you read it. If you want a sampling, you can read the short essay, “Death of Expertise” he wrote and suggested inspired him to write the book. Enjoy…

I hope this inspires you to build on your expertise and to value and use that of others. Developing expertise is a way to practice paneugenesis because it will help generate comprehensive benefits by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfish, synergistic interactions so everyone and eveything benefits. Thank you for helping everyone and everything benefit. Please share your efforts so we can learn from your selfish, selfless, synergistic actions. Thank you.

Be Well’r,

Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.