To many managers, possibly even leaders, people are just numbers and data and costs. Until you are forced to come to the realization that they are… people. Recently we learned how doctors are now realizing that fact.
arteries, organs and bones that actual patients can become abstract
concepts, rarely encountered in the flesh. But a study out of Israel
found that including photographs of patients in their files enhanced
radiologists' performance. "We recommend adding patient photographs as
a routine protocol to the digital file of all radiographic
examinations," the study concludes.
Just including a photo? Let's look at the study.
In the study, 15 radiologists at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in
Jerusalem reviewed computed tomography images along with a photograph
of the patient. Months later they reviewed the same CT scan but without
a photo. A control group of radiologists also twice-reviewed CT scans
with no photographs at all. About 300 patients participated in the
In the most eye-popping result, the absence of a photograph was
associated with an 80% drop in so-called incidental findings, such as
when a search for kidney stones turns up a tumor. Incidental findings
are often life-saving because they discover pre-symptomatic problems,
and the study suggests that radiologists look more carefully for them
when a patient photograph is attached.
Of course there is the other side of the story, the potential loss of objectivity.
Others argue that anonymity can be an advantage and point to studies
showing bias in medical treatment. "Bringing a human face to medicine is always good. Bringing
stereotyping and bias is dangerous," says Tom Delbanco, a Harvard
University professor of medicine, who regards the Turner study "with
The human face is powerful.
old-fashioned head shots to improve radiology. Included in his
presentation were comments from radiologists who participated in the
study. One said the inclusion of photographs "makes me feel more like a
physician." Another said a photograph "makes each CT scan unique."
But of course. Because people are… people. They are unique, with a pair of hands that some people forget are attached to a brain with knowledge, experience, creativity, and ideas. And that's a lesson for all of us in the business world as well. You may recall a recent Examples of Excellence that showed a training matrix and also a training level board. Notice the photos of the associates? Here's a closer look:
It's visually obvious that Andy is a real person, not just a cost on a P&L. When CEO's of the Detroit 3, of Delta, and basically any other major company talk about reducing tens of thousands of "heads" have they actually seen the heads?
What would happen if they had to sign off on a photo collage of all the people they were whacking, instead of a simple budget request for some termination dollars? Would their decision be any different? Perhaps not with the likes of the Detroit 3 CEO's, but I bet it might be for many others.
Try it out. When you see generic terms like "heads" and even "people"… ask to see them. Attach photos. Better yet, go to the gemba and talk to them. You might just make a different decision.