By Dan Fine, Business Adviser at Hive Business.
Back in 2004 it felt, to me, that the ban on fox hunting was a good thing. I saw the fox and the hound when I was younger and it left a bad impression, so the ban seemed to make sense. It was a step away from harming foxes and therefore a step in the right direction.
I was surprised when it appeared in the media 13 years later. How odd — I thought the issue had been put to bed and so did nearly everyone else, with polls showing 83% of people against repealing the ban. So what was the point?
Then I heard James Barrington, a former director of the League Against Cruel Sports and a welfare consultant to the Countryside Alliance speaking on a podcast. He had campaigned for the ban initially but was now questioning it because evidence showed it has been a net contributor to suffering for foxes and other animals. In other words it hadn’t just not worked, it had produced the opposite outcome it was intended for.
I can’t comment on who is right here, what interests me is what happened next: two other people on the podcast lost their faculties of reason, couldn’t discuss the hunting ban openly and were unable to move outside of a rigid understanding of the ban as a panacea.
Their interest in the ban didn’t even seem linked to reducing suffering among foxes. To them the legislation was an ideological achievement and their position in relation to it said something deep and important about their identity and place in the world.
The ban was therefore right no matter the evidence presented or the perspective of analysis, which immediately struck me as worrying. They didn’t seem able to acknowledge the possibility that opinions could change according to the information available.
The economist John Maynard Keynes, accused of being inconsistent during a government hearing, said: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”
Altering our conclusions can be scary. Everyone has a vested interest in the status quo and it can seem like there’s no cost to avoiding some discussions, but what if there is a cost? Perhaps the cost has something to do with being complicit in a pretence, colluding in something that isn’t totally honest. What does that do to us over time?
Sometimes it takes courage to mention the evidence. I wonder, can you think of any ‘don’t ask’ situations in your dental practice? What about the hygienist who’s been there for 20 years (13 more than you) and only ever talks about how the old principal used to do things, all the while seeing less and less patients while expecting the same salary.
Maybe it’s the question of how profitable your practice actually is. Not to have a grip on this must be a choice, yet it is alarming how few practices do have a grip. Clearly, the things we don’t ask matter just as much as the things we do.
Every business owner will be aware of their business model and the assumptions it’s built on, but in business, as in life, you don’t just stop once you get to your destination. You keep moving, learning, adapting. You keep thriving by being open and adaptable rather than closed, defensive and brittle, like those two people on the podcast.
Challenging your assumptions, when that means challenging the status quo, is hard. Get in touch on 01872 300232 or email us at [email protected].