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10 Things Entrepreneurs Could Learn from Doctors


Please. Stop telling doctors they are terrible business people. It's the pot calling the kettle black.

Doctor at Chalkboard

So doctors are lousy business people, huh? Well, if you think about it, entrepreneurs are continual experimentalists and, particularly when it comes to trying your hand at biomedical and health innovation, maybe all those non-medical technologists, digipreneurs, and investors can learn a few things from doctors.

Here are 10 things health wannapreneurs might learn from doctors:

1. Learn how to build clinical judgment. Learning from mistakes is called experience. Learning from experience is called clinical judgment. It’s the same with entrepreneurship. Very few entrepreneurs have not had their share of mistakes of failed startups. The successful ones learn from those mistakes and have judgment about pursuing the next opportunity.

2. Entrepreneurship is about research and experimenting, something doctors do well. Doctors do this every day, day in and day out, with their patients.

3. Doctors are used to dealing with uncertainty. Doctors make decisions with incomplete information. Sometimes they have to do things based on their gut. In fact, they do so more than they would like to admit. Only about 25-35% of medical decisions are based on scientific evidence.

4. Doctors have a bias to action. While obtaining a patient’s history, doing physical exams and tests are a routine part of care, they are all a means toward an end of solving or relieving the patient’s problem. Doctors are trained, admittedly sometimes unsuccessfully, to not do things that won’t make a difference in how they treat patients.

5. Doctors are excellent at pattern recognition. Doctors basically do three things: They make decisions, communicate/educate, and perform procedures. Decision-making, whether in dermatology, pathology, or multiple other specialties, relies on pattern recognition skills.

6. Doctors know how to question, observe, connect, and associate: core entrepreneurial skills. In The Innovator’s DNA, Christensen, et al. noted the core skills of innovators are: questioning, associating, connecting, experimenting, and observing. Doctors have them all.

7. Doctors know how to assess risk and make on the spot cost-benefit decisions. Every medical decision is based on the risks versus the benefits.

8. Doctors , particularly those in private practice, know how to play many roles. They have to incorporate new techniques into their practices, they have to have human resource skills, they have to create a profit in the most regulated industry in the US and they have to rapidly adopt to a continually changing landscape.

9. Doctors are on the front lines of market opportunity every day and pursue it.

10. Doctors have the courage to know when something won’t work or should be ended. Doctors deal with such circumstance on a routine basis when dealing with patient’s treatment. They understand that when you've seen one patient, you've seen one patient. Everyone is different. Not every business is the same and the lessons learned from failure are not necessarily translatable to your next business.

Entrepreneurship is a facilitating technology that cuts across all disciplines, including the arts, the social sciences and the humanities. All entrepreneurs, regardless of their expertise or industry, have something to learn from others and all can benefit from adopting an entrepreneurial mindset. Some think of entrepreneurship as creating and running companies. Contemporary thinking and pedagogy sees it as a process of creating value. As such, the emphasis has shifted from being a problem solver to a problem seeker, regardless of the domain or discipline or unique ecosystem.

Please. Stop telling doctors they are terrible business people. It's the pot calling the kettle black.

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