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Old 09-14-2012   #1
Bill Moore
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Default Disruptive thinking in progress

SWJ has some great discussions on disruptive thinking and the challenges of implementing change. It seems disruptive thinking mostly derives from challenging assumptions and what JFK called myths. I offer this example from the health profession as a minor contribution to the discussion by providing an example of an emergent paradigm shift that challenges conventional wisdom concerning long held assumptions about diet. This type of thinking is what many of us are pushing for in the field of irregular warfare. It is written clearly; not masked in philosophical lexicon.

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“For the greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought” John F. Kennedy (June 11, 1962)

http://nusi.org/learn-more/what-the-experts-are-saying/

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Can we trust anything we think we know about nutrition?
What if our dietary recommendations are based on bad science?
What if one reason Americans are getting ever fatter is because we’re actually eating what we’ve been told to eat?

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“For years, most scientists and clinicians interested in obesity made some basic assumptions. Recently, scientists around the world have reawakened interest in pursuing research into the effect that dietary constituents might have on caloric intake, energy expenditure, and body weight. These studies have turned up findings that are not easily explained by previously assumed scientific paradigms.

Scientific paradigm shifts occur only when standard dogmas are questioned and tested, but finding financial backing for such studies can be most difficult. The Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI) is an example of a group of committed scientists, clinicians, and committed citizens interested in rigorously testing how dietary constituents can influence body weight, and the mechanisms underlying those effects. Groups like NuSI play an extraordinarily important role in science since the standard funding systems can become dominated by “experts” who consciously or subconsciously resist studies that fall outside the accepted dogma.”

David Harlan, M.D.
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Old 09-14-2012   #2
slapout9
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Nice post Bill and it is a good example.
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Old 09-14-2012   #3
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I offer this example from the health profession as a minor contribution to the discussion by providing an example of an emergent paradigm shift that challenges conventional wisdom concerning long held assumptions about diet.
My step-father who is a GP said that when he was in med school that no one would have even imagined that the majority of the then largely intractable cases of peptic ulcers would one day become manageable via antibiotic treatment. The scientific method is inherently skeptical but scientists are as prone to group think as anyone else. Anyone who has tried to get a truly novel idea through peer review might argue that they are more so.
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Old 09-14-2012   #4
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Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
My step-father who is a GP said that when he was in med school that no one would have even imagined that the majority of the then largely intractable cases of peptic ulcers would one day become manageable via antibiotic treatment. The scientific method is inherently skeptical but scientists are as prone to group think as anyone else. Anyone who has tried to get a truly novel idea through peer review might argue that they are more so.

I was just thinking to post the Helicobacter story in this thread! Persistence. Those guys were persistent as heck.

PS: You know, you can see those critters on the routine pathology laboratory stains (H&E*) done on gastric biopsies. They were there, right in front of our noses, in routine work, all along....

* (http://www.leica-microsystems.com/pa...by-step-guide/)

PPS: Here's a link to a photomicrograph of Helicobacter on H&E:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/390307642/

Topic goes right into my cell phone medical curriculum post, too....

Last edited by Madhu; 09-14-2012 at 03:16 PM. Reason: Added links
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Old 09-14-2012   #5
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Bill,

Is:
Quote:
disruptive thinking
the same thing as critical thinking?

Prompted after attending a CT-related conference where an academic asked why the threat and reality of terrorism which killed so few got such attention when medical incompetence or mistakes killed 42,000 per year in the UK. Safer to fly, than go to hospital!
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Old 09-14-2012   #6
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Is:
Quote:
disruptive thinking

the same thing as critical thinking?

Prompted after attending a CT-related conference where an academic asked why the threat and reality of terrorism which killed so few got such attention when medical incompetence or mistakes killed 42,000 per year in the UK. Safer to fly, than go to hospital!
In my opinion, critical thinking only becomes disruptive thinking if it forces a paradigm shift or reframing of the problem. Using your example, I suspect the politicians focus on terrorism because the media focuses on terrorism and if the politicians downplayed the threat, other politicians would portray them as weak and putting you at risk. Right, wrong, or indifferent, fear is an effective emotion to manipulate people.

I think the reason that politicans are ignoring excessive medical incompetence is that it isn't a major media issue and organized groups are not demanding action, so in this case I think the politicians are using critical thinking as relates to elections (what do I need to focus on to get re-elected). They are not applying critical thinking on how to best allocate government resources based on the reality of the threats. In this case it is not disruptive, it is politics as usual. Political reality is a constraint that frequently limits paradigm shifts.
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Old 09-14-2012   #7
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I think the reason that politicans are ignoring excessive medical incompetence is that it isn't a major media issue and organized groups are not demanding action, so in this case I think the politicians are using critical thinking as relates to elections (what do I need to focus on to get re-elected). They are not applying critical thinking on how to best allocate government resources based on the reality of the threats. In this case it is not disruptive, it is politics as usual. Political reality is a constraint that frequently limits paradigm shifts.
A lot of the completely unnecessary deaths associated with medical treatment happen in the interstices (infections related to less than scrupulous handwashing, charts being misread at some point and the wrong or no medication being given to a recovering patient, &tc.) so they are harder to “see,” as it were. And frankly, most people just don’t understand the basics of human health and health care. Well, most people don’t understand the basics of terrorism, either, but they see enough pictures and hear enough talking heads on cable news to feel otherwise.
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Old 09-14-2012   #8
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The scientific method is inherently skeptical but scientists are as prone to group think as anyone else. Anyone who has tried to get a truly novel idea through peer review might argue that they are more so.
I'm not entirely sure this is a bad thing: nothing wrong with imposing a high level of rigor on incoming ideas.

One prejudice that sometimes seems to creep into these discussions is the bias toward seeing new or disruptive ideas as necessarily good. The new can in fact be horribly wrong, and needs to be supported and proven before it's accepted, especially if implementation of the new idea involves risk.

Novelty or disruption doesn't in itself make thinking good. Rigor makes thinking good, new or old. Nothing wrong with new or disruptive ideas, but they shouldn't be given anything like a free pass just because they are new or disruptive.

I wish I had a peso for every article I've seen grandly declaring a "seminal shift" or a new paradigm, generation, model, etc. In many cases the declarations involved are poorly supported and seem mainly designed to portray the author as a revolutionary thinker, without being supported by any visibly revolutionary thought.

It is important to be skeptical about the old. It is equally important to be skeptical about the new.
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Old 09-15-2012   #9
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I'm not entirely sure this is a bad thing: nothing wrong with imposing a high level of rigor on incoming ideas.

[…]

It is important to be skeptical about the old. It is equally important to be skeptical about the new.
I don’t disagree as long as it is engaged and critical (as in thought, not snark) skepticism. Group think isn’t that at all, though. It’s more like non-thought.
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Old 09-15-2012   #10
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I don’t disagree as long as it is engaged and critical (as in thought, not snark) skepticism. Group think isn’t that at all, though. It’s more like non-thought.
Also worth remembering that those who try to pass ideas off as revolutionary and disruptive routinely accuse critics of groupthink, as a way to avoid addressing the points made by critics.

Always worth remembering that coining a buzzword or selling a "paradigm shift" can be a device for career enhancement and self-promotion, rather that a genuine effort at advancing the state of thought on any given issue. There are certain symptoms that indicate the presence of self-interest and self-promotion as motives, and they should not be ignored. This phenomenon is not unknown in the Small Wars universe.
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Old 09-15-2012   #11
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Also worth remembering that those who try to pass ideas off as revolutionary and disruptive routinely accuse critics of groupthink, as a way to avoid addressing the points made by critics.
Freudian theory can be defended in that manner but bench science is a different matter. If your ideology of choice demands that the research question be testable and that the test be replicable fads don’t tend to find much traction. On the other hand, that same ideology doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your research design is not overly reductive or that that which is accepted as axiomatic exists in the real world.
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Old 09-15-2012   #12
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Questions of policy and strategy cannot generally be considered "bench science".

Sometimes new ideas really are new, and sometimes they're really revolutionary. When their proponents announce them by thumping their chests and shouting about how revolutionary and disruptive they are, though... time for skepticism to go into high gear.
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Old 09-15-2012   #13
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Questions of policy and strategy cannot generally be considered "bench science".
No, but we were talking about the scientific consensus. Just sayin’.

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Sometimes new ideas really are new, and sometimes they're really revolutionary. When their proponents announce them by thumping their chests and shouting about how revolutionary and disruptive they are
marketing.
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