This blog is part 2 of Insights Inform But Don’t Inspire Blog. If you have not read part 1 of the blog then I suggest you read it before you read this blog
You can read blog 1 here
These learnings are from Brent Dykes’s article in Forbes
What can we learn from Semmelweis’s experience?
Semmelweis’s data met three key criteria—it was truthful, valuable and actionable—but he ultimately failed to see his ideas adopted in his lifetime. The Hungarian physician stumbled in one essential area—the communication of his data. I’ve identified four oversights that may have prevented Semmelweis from communicating his ideas more effectively.
1. Timeliness and Clarity
Semmelweis took 14 years to officially publish his childbed fever findings in 1861 (The Etiology, Concept, and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever). Up until this time, his work was shared within the medical community by his colleagues and students. Unfortunately, these associates often misinterpreted and misrepresented Semmelweis’s claims, causing many obstetricians to dismiss, refute or ignore them.
2. Audience and the Curse of Knowledge
Semmelweis may have fell victim to a common ailment that occurs in people who become enlightened by data—the curse of knowledge. He forgot what it was like to not know what he knew. Semmelweis couldn’t grasp why the medical community wouldn’t accept his simple handwashing advice. Rather than trying to foster understanding and build common ground with his audience, he grew impatient and threw insults at his critics—further alienating himself from the people he was trying to influence.
Key takeaway: Know your audience and strive to understand their existing attitudes and beliefs. Not everyone is going to accept your data, especially if it is disruptive to commonly held practices or beliefs. Instead, you may want to focus on identifying open-minded allies who can help build internal support and consensus for your ideas.
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