Our Solution – Part 2


Part 1 stressed that if a strategy is to have any chance of fixing a complex system, it must address the root causes that underlie the system’s brokenness.

Today’s blog describes how a greater awareness of integrity is also a necessary ingredient.


Dictionary.com defines integrity as:

  1. Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty
  2. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

The first definition presents a high bar, suggesting that an action either reflects integrity – or not.

Pamela Meyer’s intriguing TED talk on lying discusses how often we fall short:1

  • We are exposed to lies some 10 to 200 times a day,
  • Business fraud consumes 7% of the U.S. economy ($1 trillion per year), and
  • Over 90% of college students have cheated on schoolwork.

In his book, Think Again; Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions, Sydney Finkelstein described several situations in which leaders have made disastrous decisions when self-interest blinded their sense of what is right.

Finkelstein described a situation in which a CEO of a high-profile bank overrode the compensation committee by giving his girlfriend, a manager at the bank, a much higher raise than allowable by policy. The ensuing turmoil eventually caused the CEO his job and severely damaged the bank’s internal morale.

Think Again goes on to provide governance tools to reduce the likelihood such behavior can gain traction within an organization. Although these guidelines are helpful, the book subtly condones such lapses as understandable “leadership” behavior. Labeling those who use their positions to promote their own personal interest over other stakeholders as “Good Leaders” is a misnomer. From that perspective a more apt title might have been “How to Recognize Bad Leaders”.

The second dictionary definition of integrity – the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished – is more nuanced. In her TED talk, Meyer describes how lying requires societal acquiescence from those who are being deceived. She suggests that if we do not resist when confronted by lies, we are letting our integrity be diminished. It may seem like a stretch, but when we respond to advertising by buying something that is not good for us, Meyer suggests that we are allowing our integrity to be diminished.

Investigating the nuances of integrity further, consider the challenges that pharmaceutical marketing reps present to physicians.3,4  When physicians accept a free lunch for everyone at the office, it is no big deal, right? No, it is a big deal. The billions of dollars spent marketing to physicians result in tens of billions of expensive drugs being prescribed in situations in which more effective, safer, or less expensive but just as effective medications are available.5  Both employers and employees pay the price – in both money and suboptimal health.

While preparing this blog, I discussed integrity at length with Tan Kaccāna, a Buddhist monk (full disclosure, Kaccāna is our son). His advice for those of us working in the world included:

  • Make acting with integrity a central theme in your life,
  • Spend as much time as possible with people you know that clearly act with integrity,
  • Strengthen your mindfulness as a key to living a life of integrity, and
  • Reflect on and learn from the results of your actions.


Integrity, in the sense of wholeness, plays a major role in reducing the gap between an individual’s current health and their optimal health.

Imagine someone trying to protect their “wholeness” while walking through a grocery store’s high salt, high fat, high sugar environment that is purposely filled with the smells and colors that whet one’s desire for immediate gratification. Just framing such a challenge as a threat to one’s personal integrity can be an effective step toward greater health as well as a lot less time in the snack aisle.

Breakthrough To Better,

1Ted Talk How to Spot a Liar
2Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How To Keep It From Happening, by Sydney Finkelstein
3Why I don’t see drug reps: a GP’s take on Big Pharma spruiking 
4Following the Script: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors 
5Conversations Edition 3 – Best Marketing Tagline of All Time?


The purpose of Switch Conversations is to inform business leaders about
opportunities to reduce healthcare costs by improving employee’s health.




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Edition 1 – Solving a Well-Entrenched Problem
Edition 2 – A Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Edition 3 – Best marketing tagline of all time?
Edition 4 – Post-Truth Killed a President
Edition 5 – What’s an employer to do?
Edition 6 – Profiting From the Opioid Epidemic
Edition 7 – The Keys to Unlocking Better Decisions
Edition 8 – When Difficult Things Need to be Done Well
Edition 9 – Fixing Healthcare
Edition 10 – Beware of a Singing Cow
Edition 11 – Wise Reflections
Edition 12 – Warning: Reader Discretion Advised
Edition 13 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 1)
Edition 14 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 2)
Edition 15 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 3)
Edition 16 – Embracing Reality to Improve Healthcare
Edition 17 – Everything I Needed To Know…
Edition 18 – The Eighth Circle of Hell
Edition 19 – So… What’s Our Solution?
Edition 20 – Protecting Integrity as a Core Strategy
Edition 21 – An Unadorned Legacy
Edition 22 – Time to Grow Up
Edition 23 – Against All Odds
Edition 24 – When Everyone Has Stopped Listening
Edition 25 – Focusing on What’s Important
Edition 26 – Don’t Give Up Your Shot
Edition 27 – Join the Goodhood
Edition 28 – Fixing Healthcare (Recycled)
Edition 29 – Taming the Healthcare Beast
Edition 30 – Leadership
Edition 31 – Better Health Requires Good Sense
Edition 32 – Little Decisions With Big Consequences
Edition 33 – Transformational Courage
Edition 34 – Transformational Courage – Part 2
Guest Post – Happy Thanksgiving! By Jeff Novick, RD
Edition 35 – Transformational Courage – Part 3