My new favorite word, Iatrogenic
I recently came across a great explanation of the word Iatrogenics or Iatrogenesis from Nassim N. Teleb in his book Antifragle. I have been thinking and mulling the concept over for a few weeks and it has resonated with me quite well. Wikipedia defines Iatrogenics as
Iatrogenesis, or an iatrogenic artifact (“originating from a physician”) is an inadvertent adverse effect or complication resulting from medical treatment or advice, including that of psychologists, therapists, pharmacists, nurses, physicians, and dentists.
The particular concept and context of Iatrogenesis that has resonated most with me is the idea that there is a similar adverse effect to the ‘advice’ that is given in business and in our lives. Think about all of the advice that is tossed away for free these days. Goobers such as myself with blogs and twitter accounts that expose advice and remedies for all sorts of ailments in our lives. Beyond the physical ones that medical doctors treat, the economic doctors and soothsayers in business try to convince us to accept their ‘salve’ as the cure for our woes.
All of this advice leads to an over-treatment which will kill us. The immediate ‘advice’ or attempt to fix our problem fails to recognize the 2nd order effects. What problems does this solution or advice cause? Hence the solution may be more painful than the original ailment. Some businesses need lots more advice, say those about to go out of business. Most businesses need significantly less advice and just need to role up their sleeves and get to work rather than looking for a golden nugget from the soothsayers. Its Iatrogenics in business.