Doubt the Default Solution

Improvement Insights Blog

Doubt the Default Solution

All too often, improvement teams fail to question the default approach to doing business. They come up with countermeasures that simply parrot the status quo. I recently saw a TED talk on creativity. The presenter said: Doubt the Default. Sage advice. Here’s why:

“I saw an interesting TED talk this weekend. The professor was talking about creativity, and he used a phrase that I kind of liked. It’s “doubt the default.” Doubt the default. So whatever you’re doing right now is the default; doubt the default.

“Steve Jobs said “Hmm… you know, I don’t like these little tape cassette recorders. I’d like something to hold a lot more music.” Out came the iPod, and then out came the iPhone, right? There’s things like that; Elon Musk said, “Well, cars don’t have to run on gasoline, they can run on electricity” – the Tesla. And then he said, “Well, we could shoot rockets into space,” and the default in space technology was you shut off the booster and you lost the booster, but the [payload] went into space. Musk’s team said, “Well, I wonder if we could take our boosters and shoot this thing into space and then teach them how to come back and land so we could reuse them?” Reusable boosters, that’s really ignoring the default, right?

“So doubt the default. Do you get the idea? Even for me, back early on in the 2005 zone, just like everybody else I had a decision tree built into the QI Macros so that you had to pick the chart before you picked your data. Then I realized, “Well, the QI Macros are the only software that you actually select the data first.” Well, guess what? Once you’ve selected your data, I can analyze it with the program, I can run through that decision tree inside the program so you don’t have to keep in your head, and out of that came the Control Chart Wizard and later the Stat Wizard and the Chart Wizard and Process Change Wizard and the Improvement Project Wizard, which will create entire improvement projects from scratch. I doubted the default approach to how we do data analysis and Quality Improvement.

“So when you’re working on your improvement project, doubt the default; doubt the default. Just question “Why are we doing it that way?” “Is there a better way?” Very often, my job when I’m consulting or coaching somebody is to help them see the alternatives. They may not be thinking about alternatives because we’ve always done it this way.

“That’s my Improvement Insight for this week: Doubt the default. Let’s create a hassle free America, hassle free health care. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”