Doctors and Consultants May 2019 • 1 minute

I find it surprising the difference in the level of trust that people ascribe to doctors and management consultants. It seems like if you asked some reasonably smart person who is more trustworthy, they would point to the doctor every time. But in practice, I feel like the opposite may be closer to the truth. Doctors are basically confident people applying their own incomplete understanding of a model (in their case, physiology). Management consultants are doing the same thing, with management theory. The weird thing about doing something like that is how wrong they are both capable of being.

I’m not a paranoid person when it comes to doctors and the legitimacy of their knowledge, and I am when it comes to consultants, which is part of why I wanted to explore this conundrum. But let’s be clear: doctors rarely do the research themselves, often their understanding is based on a summarized version of the research in each field that could impact them. So they are basically two steps removed from synthesis. It’s fine to give credence to the experience they get when they get into the field, but the actual solutions to the problems they face lies somewhere in the research and the synthesis of the people performing it, not the doctor. The word practitioner comes to mind. That’s what most doctors are, and yet there’s this whole blind trust we feel when the word is evoked.

Doctors are management consultants, but for physiology. I can see your trust in them slowly errode as that statement sinks in. I think we can all address this better by using Google Scholar more, asking more questions, and learning that in matters where you feel blind faith, we should maybe be more skeptical. And in matters where we are already skeptical (management consultant advice) we could probably afford to be less skeptical.