Being a paramedic during the formative years of my working life, I’ve been surprised at how many of the lessons that I learned on the job have translated to the business world.
“Paramedics save lives. EMTs save paramedics.” This was a saying that was often repeated in my tenure in EMS, and it was true. As an EMT, we had basic knowledge and skills, and much of the care that we ultimately learned to provide, after doing the basics like splinting and providing oxygen, involved the long skinny pedal on the right in the cab of the rig. When we went to school and became paramedics, a whole world of care options opened to us – defibrillators, medications, advanced airway interventions. It’s not uncommon for a paramedic to get distracted by all of the things that s/he can do in the field and forget that ultimately what a patient needs most is a hospital.
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In business, we do similar things. As we learn and grow in our careers we develop new skills and knowledge and it’s exciting to use them. It feels good, and it makes us feel smart when we use our acquired talents to solve a problem. But, we can just as easily pull far too much esoteric knowledge from the backs of our brains into an approach we’re using and make it more complicated than it needs to be. Instead of getting that problem in the ambulance and getting to the hospital, we’re unpacking yet another expensive piece of equipment because we can.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes a complex problem needs a complex solution. The best solution may require new technologies and processes and training guides and impenetrable Excel models and Tiger Teams and executive escalations. But how often does that go well and deliver the results that we’re hoping for?
If results are what we’re seeking, we have to simplify. We must shed our egos, move past making things personal, and look at the core of what is really happening. Why is this project behind? What does my customer really need? What is causing morale to slip? If we look hard at these questions, we may find that the answers are far less complex than they may at first appear and that the solutions are similarly simple. After all, it’s about getting the problem solved so that business can be done – that accomplishment is the best win of all.