I love good stories. A friend referred me to a great mechanic. His shop was small and the cars he was working on were overflowing his parking lot. On the wall of his office were pictures of him working on Formula One race cars with his dad. It was obvious that I had come to a place where what works wins. After a minute of listening to me tell him what my car’s problem was, he walked me out to my car and popped the hood. “It’s simple,” he said, “an engine works by compressing air and fuel in a cylinder and igniting it with a spark; if an engine doesn’t work then something is wrong with one of those things”.
He took a wrench out of his pocket and unscrewed a spark plug and replaced it with a sensor he pulled out of a case he was carrying. “This measures the compression and air-gas mixture in the cylinder.”, he said, “Now turn on your car.” In a few minutes he was telling me that not enough fuel was getting into the cylinder and that my spark was weak; he even let me watch the defective spark. How masterful! I had no problem paying the high labor rate, he had diagnosed and explained the basic problem in less than 5 minutes. He always has had more work than he could handle and has long since retired.
The greatest minds that drive successful businesses also think this way. “It’s simple,” they say, “a business works when costs are less than sales and you have a good market; if a business doesn’t work then something is wrong with one of those things”. If you want to fix a business, find a way to bring costs below sales and find a bigger market. I have realized the stark truth of this the hard way.
The U.S. government has not figured it out yet. For many years my wife ran a child care business to get me through graduate school. We bought an old building and fixed it up. The government required that we have a federally funded food program. In their system, they paid us to give nutritious food to the children. The more food we bought, the more they paid us. They made us keep track of every glass of milk we gave the children, hours were spent filling out reports. It turns out that the “market” for many of the nutritious foods they forced on the children was not that great and we ended up throwing most of the food out anyway. Costs were high (the more we spent the more they gave us), sales were non-existent and there was hardly a market for the product, a dismal business model. But we didn’t care, we were getting money for filling out papers and “Mama Anita” cooked great natural foods that the children loved anyway, no credit given to the government.
When it comes to our bodies, maybe we ought to care. If they don’t work, we die. It’s simple, the cells in your body take in water, nutrients and oxygen, they produce energy and provide the activity that fulfills your needs; if your body doesn’t work, then something is wrong with one of those things. Perhaps there is one difference from a car engine, the cells in your body can attempt to fix themselves when they detect that something is wrong.
Our cells are all about “What Works Wins”. The cells know that if the costs to run our body are more than the activity our body provides then they need to fix something; provide adequate oxygen, adequate nutrients, reduce threats and maintain a desire to always win. Cells are built to win! So are we.
There are certain things that mark a “What Works Wins” system. Costs go down, efficiencies go up, and customers are given more choices of the “cool” options they need and want. The modern electronics industry is a keen example of such: bigger memory, better screens, more features, less cost, generating huge profits. As health care costs are ever increasing, government is subsidizing such costs, and the “not-so-cool” options are often only ones offered the menu, our health care system does not really look like a “What Works Wins” system. In fact, there is even confusion as to “What Works” because options are not explained well and the cost-effectiveness of treatments is rarely emphasized.
If our health care system, being a business, were to adopt the same “What Works Wins” philosophy, what would happen?
In a “What Works Wins” world we would be told a treatment wins because it helps give the cells more of the water, nutrients, and oxygen they need, it helps them produce more energy, defend themselves, and fix themselves better. In this system we would be offered better and better options every day and the best options would eventually become more cost effective. Such a “What Works Wins” system sounds less like our current health care system and more like the “Integrative Medical” system that is gaining popularity. In Integrative Medicine, people can decide between several options: modern medication and surgery (to reduce back pain for example), a chiropractor to adjust bones and muscles, nutritional supplements (that help rebuild cartilage and bone) and/or Chinese methods that have worked for thousands of years to block (back) pain.
To be in this “What Works Wins” world, we all need to be able to find what options really work best and be able explore the cost-effectiveness of each option. We are all are evolving to move toward such systems as a matter of survival. As populations increase exponentially around the world, the demand to provide the stuff that healthy cells need is growing. Good water, good air, good nutrition, good environments are at the very top the list of priorities in many communities around the world.
The only thing that we have to fear about a “What Works Wins” world is that in this world what doesn’t work so well will eventually lose.