WebMD Won't Fix Your Business Problems

Self-Diagnosing Your Business is Dangerous. Here's why.

May 27, 2021
Business leaders are incorrectly self-diagnosing pains they don't understand, and it's costing time, money, and mental sanity.

You have problems, they have problems, we all have problems. Who is gonna solve all these problems?! 

Forget relying on an expert, just ask Dr. Google! Our trusty smartphone can now solve anything and everything at the touch of a screen! 

As a result of this way of thinking — now more than ever — business leaders are incorrectly self-diagnosing pains they don't understand, and it's costing time, money, and mental sanity. 

The Tough Nut to Crack

When to self-diagnose vs. when to “call in the calvary” is actually an easy decision Unfortunately, we let our egos, biases and heuristics cloud our judgement. 

Self-diagnosing can be fine for quick technical problems (e.g. how to remove a splinter; how to sort number #1 plastic from #2 plastic; what do you get your wife for your anniversary...). But BEWARE: for multivariate and complex problems, an incorrect diagnosis compounds the negative consequences. Trust me, you really don't want this.

Is self-diagnosing right for me?

Before deciding if self-diagnosis is the right path for your business problem, be aware of the possible outcomes before you start: 

  • INCONCLUSIVE — Perhaps an accurate decision cannot be derived with available information. You’ve invested significant time, and you might have a better understanding of the symptoms, but in the end you are unable to reach a conclusion. You may be left feeling foggy and unclear what to do next. 
  • YOU’RE CORRECT! — Good job: you’re part of the slim minority that’s able to successfully navigate challenges of self diagnosing. If you found the process invigorating and enjoyed the tribulations of self-solving a complex problem, you might enjoy and excel at starting your own business.
  • YOU’RE WRONG: FALSE POSITIVE — This is a very dangerous result, as you're likely dedicating resources to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Take this vignette from educator in the medical field that commonly sees false positives:

“When patients perform their own research on complex illnesses, they're often misinformed. One out of every 20 patients suffering from extreme fatigue, visit self diagnosis sites and conclude that they have lupus. Nearly all of them are incorrect and only one in 500 patients with those symptoms suffer from lupus.”

Michael H. Perskin, 

Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine

NYU Langone Medical Center

  • YOU’RE WRONG: FALSE NEGATIVE — Naturally, this is also very bad, as this outcome doesn’t reveal the problem at all. As a result, the issue persists. Furthermore, a false negative can mask the proper pathway and actions that need to be taken. 

If you were to experience rapid onset chest pain, you would need to immediately contact an emergency healthcare provider. Asking Jeeves about which of the 36 conditions you might have is not the proper step; the consequences of being wrong with that kind of self-diagnosis could result in the loss of your life. The implications are not that different when it comes to your business.

Common Pitfalls that Lead to Incorrect Diagnoses

In addition to the possible outcomes of incorrect self-diagnosis, there are also some reasons we think we successfully understand our ailments, but time after time, come up short:

  1. Limited Perspective. It's hard to read the label from inside the jar. You lack the appropriate vantage point to see all the things that are affecting you and producing symptoms, or to step out of your own shoes and look at yourself from a third-person. 
  2. Stubbornness. It takes humility to confide in a peer or professional. Asking for help is hard — having grace to listen is harder.
  3. Overinvestment. Our strengths become our weaknesses in excess, and that’s true of caring: just like grains of sand, the tighter you squeeze those problems, the more they slip through your fingers. You need a healthy degree of detachment to reach a solution. 
  4. Growing blind spots. False negatives lead to treating false problems. Gaps in self-awareness usually exacerbate blind spots, and something that is unknown to you and unknown to others can cause big problems if left untreated. 

Start by understanding the problem

Business leaders commonly come to us with a self-diagnosis of their business problems, using statements like “My website is bad” or “I need better lead generation.” 

Maybe that's true… but often it's not. Or it’s rarely the full picture. 

And anyone that takes your word at face value and tells you they know the answer right off the bat is usually under-experienced, lying, or trying to get your money before you understand the problem. 

At Only Co., if we don't agree with your self-diagnosis, we won't just blindly start solving the problem you identified. 

We start all of our engagements with a deep dive into your business to align around the actual problem: not just what you’ve diagnosed, and not just what we might assume. If we aren’t aligned on the problem, then we won't be aligned on the solution. 

We believe problems that have clear causes with actual impacts are the ones worth solving. And we’ll locate those for you. It's that simple.  

Want to learn more about discovering your business blind spots? Subscribe for more insights or get in-touch with our team at info@theonlyco.com

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