A Prairie Home Companion
The Lake Wobegon Effect
“The Lake Wobegon effect is a natural tendency to overestimate one’s capabilities and see oneself as better than others. Research psychologists refer to this tendency as self-enhancement bias and have found evidence for its existence in many domains.” Psychology Wiki
Garrison Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion) made a hugely successful career on National Public Radio (NPR) out of the fictional town of Lake Wobegon in Minnesota, a place where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average”. Clearly tongue in cheek with regard to strong women and good-looking men, but absolutely wrong mathematically with respect to all the children being above average (which makes the claim additionally hilarious). His purposeful hyperbole and math error are funny because it is clearly intended to be. Hyperbole and math errors intended to mislead or misdirect in order to project a higher opinion of yourself are not so funny.
Clearly, we all want to be the absolute best we can be and strive every day to reach that ideal through continuous improvement, objective self-reflection, feedback from an authoritative and respected source, as well as friends not even in our field who can also provide us with some good common sense.
However, over my long career I have personally witnessed examples of the Lake Wobegon effect negatively infect businesses, and the markets they serve, in various ways. By way of example there are several companies in the after-market medical device service industry all of which have proclaimed themselves “Centers of Excellence” (CoE). I am sure they are very proud of the work they do and that they firmly believe they are better than anyone else in their market space, but can every company be a CoE – what is the objective criteria necessary to become one, and ultimately what tangible value does such a designation provide to clinical end-users? This, and really any self-proclamation is witness number one for the Lake Wobegon effect defined as illusory superiority. How do they know they are a “CoE”, when perhaps when objectively evaluated by an external authoritative source they may in fact be closer to a “Center of Average”? Simply proclaiming yourself a CoE does not make it so, and it diminishes the term. The best way, however, to determine whether or not a company is in fact a CoE and not a Puffer fish is to perform your own due diligence of the supplier and rank them against their peers.
Hope you summer is going well and check out an episode or two of A Prairie Home Companion on YouTube it will be time well spent.
About the Author, G. Wayne Moore:
A 30-year veteran of the diagnostic ultrasound market Wayne has held senior level positions with several major medical equipment manufacturers, including Honeywell Medical Systems and Siemens Medical Solutions. Wayne has been directly involved in the development and commercialization of more than 15 technologically intensive ultrasound systems. He is widely published in diagnostic ultrasound literature, a sought after speaker at medical imaging conferences, has served as an expert witness in multiple ultrasound litigations, and holds more than 16 United States ultrasound related patents. Wayne obtained his MBA from the University of Denver – Daniels College of Business.
He was elected as a Fellow of the American Society of Echocardiography (FASE) in 2009.
Correspondence: Dave Dallaire
1950 Lefthand Creek Lane , Longmont, CO 80501, USA