Note Cards: Naïve Experts and The Power in Asking Stupid Questions

I had the benefit of spending the entire week with my good friend Bryan Chung recently as he came to Indianapolis for a week-long IFAST “internship” and to take some continuing education that would typically be considered outside his field of expertise. The result of his visit has been a very powerful educational experience for me not only because Bryan is an incredibly intelligent guy, but he provides a fresh perspective on many of the things that I think, believe, and rely on in my interactions with my patients and clients that IFAST. I’m pretty sure he also benefited by being exposed to information that forced him to consider how his actions may also impact the long-term health and capabilities of his patients after what would be considered a successful procedure as a plastic surgeon.

Bryan Chung MDWe function in the complex domain in dealing with humans, it’s very easy to get locked into patterns of behavior in our interactions. Our perspectives and beliefs are only strengthened when we perform in isolation without an ongoing challenge or a reminder to continually ask ourselves why we do things the way we do and how our outcomes are affected. While we may appear to be successful on a regular basis, without a conflicting or critical perspective it’s easy to lose sight of those aspects of the client interaction that may be beneficial in differing circumstances.

I think Bryan benefited from his exposure to the environment IFAST as it lent consideration to potential life-altering consequences in regard to the many procedures that he may perform. For example, it’s not uncommon for plastic surgeons to borrow seemingly redundant body parts to fill gaps in damaged soft tissues or to reposition muscles and nerves to restore movement.

What potentially happens when you remove a sternum?

How does repositioning a pectoral or lat muscle alter movement?

What compensations will arise if I disconnect an external oblique?

Did you know they can make a jaw out of fibula?!

While these procedures are necessary, there are many unseen consequences from a purely mechanical and coordinative perspective that may be ignored when the initial goal is to merely maintain and restore foundational health.

From my perspective, Bryan’s visit has given me the opportunity to spend time with someone who is unafraid to ask stupid questions. Now, of course, the reality is that Bryan doesn’t ask stupid questions. I don’t think he even has the capacity to do such a thing. But what he can do is ask a question from a naïve perspective. Bryan is truly an expert in what he does. He views all things based on what he has learned through his own studies and his own experiences. He problem solves based on what he already knows. This provides him the ability to see things in a way that I cannot and then to ask a question that I can’t even formulate.

[Note:  this is another reason why we all need to mentor Padawans]

The result is not only novelty of thought but potentially an entirely innovative solution to a common problem or an alteration of my beliefs. Remember that when we’re functioning in the complex domain where the human system lies, it is not uncommon to have multiple solutions for the same problem. This is why it is so important for professionals in the same field (and outside of our fields) to be able to discuss our particular viewpoints without personal attacks or turf wars. We can all be correct depending on circumstances without anyone being wrong. Get comfortable with that.









Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Tyler W

    Powerful. Thanks for sharing these insights with us. Being able to step outside of ourselves and be open to conflicting and/or different ideas, even when we may think we are successful, can lead to some profound revelations. Or better yet…profound questions. Thanks!