Friday, September 28, 2012


“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein

Last week, I had the opportunity to accompany a friend to attend a preview of a new documentary, “Escape Fire”.  The film has already won a number of awards and is purported to be for the American Healthcare Crisis issue what “An Inconvenient Truth” was for Climate Change.   Since healthcare transformation is a passion of mine, I was very eager to see it!  The film was a provocative attempt at creating new thinking about a critical problem, and I recommend it for anyone interested in this topic.

The title of the film is based on the fact that fire-fighters, when they find themselves caught in the midst of a forest fire, often have to do something counter intuitive.  They must surround themselves with a circle of fire – an escape fire – to prevent the larger blaze from reaching them.  This metaphor was used to suggest a practice that is necessary anytime one hopes to create breakthrough thinking or a paradigm shift.  Einstein summed it up in the quote above.  Simply stated – if we want transformation, we have to think outside the box.

Thinking outside the box may sound simple, but it’s not easy.  We all can get “stuck” in familiar ways of thinking until another way of thinking becomes available to us.  As long as we are “stuck”, we may have blind spots.  We “don’t know what we don’t know”.  This is a central idea to the practice of coaching.  Coaches use a variety of techniques that serve to help get clients “unstuck” in their lives (as I shared in my earlier post, The Power of a Mirror.)

Another way to open ourselves to breakthroughs in our thinking is to surround ourselves with people who have different perspectives.  In the case of “Escape Fire”, I found it interesting that all of the clinicians that were interviewed for the film were physicians (even though there are clearly many other professions who have a stake in healthcare transformation).  As the adage goes:  “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  It is unfortunate that the filmmakers lost an opportunity to promote a broader conversation.

This kind of oversight isn’t uncommon, though. In many situations, people tend to prefer to be with like-minded individuals.  While this may be comforting, it isn’t necessarily a good way to expand our thinking!  Many businesses have already realized the difference that having a diverse workforce can make in promoting diverse thinking and creative solutions.

I’ve also seen the benefits of diversity in my coaching practice.  Last week, Eileen O’Grady and I held the first session of a new endeavor – a virtual group health coaching program for people who want to transform their relationship with food.   While it’s too soon to report on the group’s successes, I was excited by the potential I saw represented.  All the participants share a common vision, but their perspectives are diverse.   I look forward to the rich discussions that are ahead of us, and the transformations that the participants will be creating for themselves!

What do you do when you feel “stuck”?  Do you have some good support systems or “sounding boards” in your life to help you consider various perspectives?   If you’re looking for a breakthrough, I invite you to consider the benefits of using other people to help facilitate your transformation. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the documentary, Escape Fire, you can learn more about it here.